Adventures in Aging — Part 321
When I was finishing high school, the powers that be had us all take an aptitude test. It did not measure achievement, or knowledge, or intelligence. It ferreted out what fields the test-taker was temperamentally suited to work in. I had always been good at standardized tests and expected to do as well on this one as I did on the others.
And I did. Mostly. The test predicted I could thrive in any field of endeavor I might choose. Except one.
My results promised me success and satisfaction — with scores between ninety and a hundred — in science, engineering, business, finance, art, government, trades, or sales. But my chances of happiness plunged to about eight percent when I hit the helping professions: nursing, social work, caregiving.
After an undergraduate degree in English, I became a lawyer. It is a profession that lies at the intersection of language, logic, and public policy, and one that no one ever has called a helping profession. The work kept me in the middle class and made me enough money so I could retire when I turned 69.
My law practice focused on elder-law, the legal problems that confront old people and their families, so when I closed up the office and headed home to begin retirement, I had twenty years of watching how age affects families.
As I began my retirement journey, two random observations remained with me from my law practice
The first was a throwaway line I picked up from my doctor-sister. Men just keel over dead one day. Women get taken out by multiple chronic conditions and ever-increasing disability.
The second was a comment that I often heard from old women, either single by choice or widowed. I’m not interested in another relationship with a man, because the men I meet aren’t looking for a wife, they’re looking for a nurse.
In my case, I didn’t keel over dead before my wife began to experience those chronic conditions. She developed joint and bone issues that limited her movement and made many previously ordinary activities painful. That meant I had to become a caretaker. I didn’t object to that. I loved her when we married, and I love her today. I took the for-better-or-worse thing seriously…