The Hourglass: Life as an Aging Mortal

The Hourglass: Life as an Aging Mortal

by Pamela Cuming


Publisher CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Published in Health, Fitness & Dieting/Aging, Self-Help, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Nonfiction

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Book Description

BLUE INK REVIEW : " Written in an attention grabbing narrative style, The Hourglass is an enlightening, sometimes even buoying, read that sheds light on a topic many of us deny or ignore."

Self Publishing Review ... 4 1/2 stars...."Even though the book deals with aging and death, the author remains positive and supportive. Cuming’s considerate and philosophical method gently guides the reader... She never loses sight that death is an unknown and no matter how prepared, most will be afraid. The reading experience, however, is non-threatening and life-affirming."

Sample Chapter


Loving Our Aging Mates

When marrying, ask yourself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this person into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory. Friedrich Nietzsche

One of the positive aspects of our cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest was the chance to meet a delightful older couple. Bunny and Ted celebrated their sixtieth anniversary while we were on the river. They were proud of having escaped from their assisted living facility for the event. Every evening they entertained the passengers with tales of their early lives together. (Bunny had been an internationally acclaimed tennis player. Ted had been an engineer.) Their laughter was contagious. Though Ted had a heart condition and a slight limp, they were the first on the dance floor. When Ted got tired, he would stand in place swaying his hips to the music. Bunny would do the moving and jumping for both of them.

Watching Bunny and Ted, I got the impression that when they looked at each other, they saw their younger selves. Perhaps it was the way they flirted, like young adults on a first date. Or perhaps it was the laughter that emanated from their table when no one but the two of them were present. Or perhaps it was the care each took in their person and dress. He always wore pressed slacks and a blazer. She wore colorful skirts that swirled when she danced and shoes with a slight heel.

In an ideal marriage between two aging partners, they dance together gracefully; two separate organisms moving as one. Both bring energy to the dance. Though their arms are entwined, neither is holding up the other. Their limbs move in tandem and of their own accord. If one wants to boogie, the other is up to it. If one wants to waltz, the other is willing. They move through their advancing years mutually supportive and yet capable of standing and twirling on his or her own. She teeters when he totters and he teeters when she totters. I am confident Bunny and Ted will continue dancing “as long as they both shall live.”

Marriage Vows. “Will you have this man(woman) as your lawful wedded partner, to live together in the estate of matrimony? Will you love him(her), honor him(her), comfort him(her) and keep him(her) in sickness and in health; forsaking all others, be true to him(her) as long as you both shall live?”

“I will.”

These standard wedding vows have a glaring omission. They fail to include a reference to aging. Knowing what I know now, I would change the vows to read... “comfort him (her) and keep him (her) in age as well as youth, and in sickness as well as health; forsaking all others…”

When we are young and invulnerable, we don’t really worry about getting sick. We certainly don’t dwell on aging, and how it will affect our relationship. If we did, we might pause a moment before we promised to be true “as long as you both shall live.”

Eos, the goddess of the dawn, fell in love with a mortal noble named Tithonus. So great was her love that she pleaded with Zeus to grant Tithonus immortality. Zeus agreed. The two lovers cavorted happily through life for years until it became apparent that Tithonus was aging. Eos realized too late that she had neglected to ask Zeus for eternal youth for Tithonus.

The day came when Tithonus could not longer keep up with her, physically or mentally. Instead of a source of passion, he became a drag on the perpetually young immortal. Finally, she resorted to the putting him in the equivalent of a nursing home. Though he no longer recognized her and bore no resemblance to the mortal she had once loved, Eos felt compelled to visit every Sunday for all eternity.

As Eos learned, it can be very difficult to love an aging mate. As age took its toll on her lover, he lost his energy and his optimism and finally his sanity. He became like a child, babbling nonsense. He was stuck for all eternity at the negative pole of the Stargazer. At least he was laughing. Many aging mortals become consumed with fear and dread, and begin to approach life with the mindset of the Castaway caught at the negative pole. They become perpetual victims, or wounded wimps, passively awaiting the next disaster.

Still others get angry at the loss of youth and all it represents. They lash out, punishing even those they profess to love. David and I were visiting Alan, The Old Man on a Swing, in New Haven hospital after his heart surgery. As we were walking toward his room, we heard a man shouting obscenities. “Fuck you, Amelia. Fuck the doctors. They don’t know a damn thing. I’ve had it with all of you. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

We stopped and watched as a well-dressed woman in her late sixties hurried out of the room, clutching her chest and sobbing. She took refuge in a corner where she tried to compose herself. A nurse approached and said, “Mrs. Wilding, this will pass. Your husband is just frightened. He’s trying to convince himself he’s still in control. Men often react like that after a heart attack.”

Wiping her eyes, she said, “You don’t know Henry. He’s not going to get over it. He’s paying the price for too many expensive cigars, too many glasses of fine cognac, and too many late nights carousing. Now he’s taking it out on me. Sometimes I really think I hate him.” She put her hands to her face, and began to weep again.

I imagined Amelia Wilding going home alone that night, and digging out her wedding album. As she flips through the pages, trying to reconnect with herself as that smiling bride in the arms of her handsome groom, she asks herself over and over, “What happened?” Maybe she also asks, “What can I do? What should I do?”

“Maybe I should divorce him,” she says to herself as she takes a sip of wine. She sighs, “I can’t do that. He might never get out of the hospital. He might die,” she tells herself, aware of her ambivalence. “And if he gets better, what then?” She raises her glass again. “We probably don’t have enough money to live two separate lives.”

She opens another albums filled with photos taken when they took a cruise down the Nile. “And even if we did have the money, I don’t have the physical or emotional energy to separate and to then establish a whole new life.” I imagine her closing the album, sighing and saying to herself, “I have no choice but to take whatever Henry dishes out.”


Excerpted from "The Hourglass: Life as an Aging Mortal" by Pamela Cuming. Copyright © 2016 by Pamela Cuming. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Pamela Cuming

Pamela Cuming

Cuming is a Scottish name that means “courage.” Throughout her life, Pam has eagerly seized new opportunities and bravely confronted the obstacles that life has put in her way. She has always embraced Helen Keller’s belief,“Life is an adventure or nothing at all.”

View full Profile of Pamela Cuming

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