Everyone Says “Hi”

Something I wrote 8 years ago today which I’d (obviously) forgotten about and wanted to rescue:

On Friday night my granda phoned me in a state of complete confusion. He’s had Parkinson’s disease for quite a while now, and my mum had warned us that he was getting worse by the day. Last time I saw him he was impossibly frail and alien looking, but still mentally alert. Now it seems he’s entering the dark cave that we all fear will consume us in the end. He sounded happy though…I suppose that’s the small comfort in losing your mind, the fact that you don’t care anymore. 

I am a little surpised by how well I reacted to it. I’ve been thinking about it the past few days, and think the fact that my grandparents have always known so little about my ‘real’ life (they’re extremely religious and I’ve left any decisions about what they know about me to my own mum) that there’s a ‘safe’ emotional distance there. This is not to say that I don’t care for them; just that I don’t really associate them with my actual day-to-day life anymore, and this removal creates a buffer for events like this.

It did get me thinking more  about growing old and dying, something that’s been on my mind since reading a random journal last week where the writer’s 21 year old friend had died suddenly. We go through our lives trying to avoid thinking about the one big certainty that we all have to face. There’s as much chance of someone I love ending tomorrow than anyone else on the planet, and it scares me that so often real emotion is buried under irony and lies and fear. It scares me that we waste this short time we have putting ourselves in situations we don’t wish to be in solely for convenience and avoiding hard truths.

When (if) I reach my granda’s age, everything around me today will be a far gone memory and (if I’m lucky) I’ll still know one or two people from now at most. I’ll have changed as a person 5 times over. And fuck, if I’m going to lose my mind I want to have something worth losing. It’s a cliche but no, I don’t want to look back filled with regret. I don’t mean that on any epic level right now, I only refer to what I’ve already said in the last paragraph. I can sometimes be a sentimental sod but I’m glad I am. I’m glad I sometimes (perhaps too infrequently) tell the people I care about that I do care about them. I think that’s light enough for entering darkness, and a reason not to be afraid. That’s kind of what I’ve been hearing in Bowie’s Everyone Says ‘Hi’. It’s a song obviously about dying, but it could be about the death of a mind too. And what does it matter if you’re surrounded by people who care? Well, I suppose you only know when you’re there…but I hope that the fact that my granda phoned me means that, even though he had no idea who he was speaking to or even what he was saying, he understands on some level that there are people around him, torches he’s lit along the way to this point. Don’t stay in a sad place where they don’t care how you are…everyone says ‘hi’.