I Want to Live

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York photoshops her old heating system as she puts in new heat pumps and hopes to live to be 100.At some point it becomes apparent that no one is going to be able to fix you, fix what’s wrong with you. Nothing lasts forever, my father used to say. Including health and youth. And life.

I always said I wanted to live to be a hundred. Why wouldn’t anyone want to last a whole century, I used to wonder? That was before I started noticing friends and family coping with chronic pain. It was before losing a daughter to cancer. Before I knew about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Before a friend was reported to have howled in the emergency room, “Kill me now.” This was before my own body began deteriorating with age.

I love living. When it comes right down to it, I would sooner give up my independence, my house, my limbs, my eyesight, wine and magnificent food, … before giving up my life. Even though my daughter died. Even though I often feel unnecessary and unneeded. Even though I feel depressed just thinking of the day I’m told I am beyond fixing, I want to live.

This line of thought consumed me weeks ago as the twenty-year-old heating system in my house started to die. Nothing’s wrong with the boiler, my plumber had said. But meanwhile, the loud grinding noises and stinking were keeping me awake at night. And it was expensive to run. That couldn’t be fixed. So I shut it off and began the process of gutting the closet that contained the mess of old pipes and outdated parts. It made me think of outliving my own parts and becoming a useless, non-functioning nuisance. It brought up some of my greatest fears around dying: disappearing, losing myself, not mattering, and then being erased completely like I never existed. I killed the plumbing system anyway.

I could look at strawberry shortcake or anything and relate it to dying. But I stood mesmerized, elated, watching the shiny state-of-the-art heat-pump units being installed up and down the house, and forgot the old familiar plumbing system that was being removed. And now I’m calculating the lifespan of this new equipment, considering how long it will keep me warm, how many more decades I can keep this house, how many years I can keep living — until the time when I, too, can no longer be fixed.


Would you want to live to be one hundred? What do you fear about aging out and dying?

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6 thoughts on “I Want to Live

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Such a powerful piece, Robin. I agree that living to be very old isn’t a bit appealing to me now. Living as long as I feel good and can be independent is another matter. Since surgery I’m experiencing a hope for hearing, so I need to last a while to see how the cochlear implant works out. So far, I can’t talk myself into leaving my house and moving to town. I want to raise Monarch butterflies and the fields are full of milkweed. Plus, I like being snowed in and so far I have helpers for the big stuff. Lynne has the right idea. Let’s just live today and see how it goes.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh, I’m so excited about the cochlear implants, Elaine. I hope they will help and be a big blessing. I can’t blame you for wanting to stay out there at your beautiful home in the country. Maybe you could rent a room to someone so you aren’t so alone out there? I know – a lot depends on who you could find and whether you could give up some of your privacy. I have a similar problem although I guess I’m somewhat closer to town. There is something very special about being snowed in out here. Somehow, being an avid designer, it’s difficult to simply “just live” and “see how it goes.” I’m always having to put my own touch on things. Control. I wonder how controlling I’ll be if I’m lucky enough to get to my nineties in decent health. Just had a horrifying thought – what if I get dementia and am still trying to control everything?!?

  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    Robin, today I feel that I’ve had a good life and I’m OK with dying. But how can any of us know how we’ll feel at the time? Best to just live today.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yup, Lynne. Gonna try to do that. Without speculating. Or at least – not looking out beyond more than a week or two in advance. Cheers!

  3. Lucy Bergström

    Yes, I want to be 100, but having seen family members approach that hallowed and revered milestone, it doesn’t seem that attractive. Loss of memory is bad, but not losing your memory may be worse. My grandfather said some things about being the last survivor of his family that were pretty depressing. He also said, when told that we were demonstrating against the war in Vietnam, that he didn’t want to hear about it. Too many wars! Grandpa read a book a day to escape from his boring life, and my dad was hard pressed to fine paperbacks he hadn’t already read. He got moved to a different nursing home at 98 and hated it (the old one having closed). He begged my parents to let him stay with them instead, but they prevaricated, hoping he’d get used to the new place. He died within a few weeks.
    So I don’t know, living to 100 sounds good on paper, who wants to die, after all, but it sounds pretty boring to me. My mom is 97 and sleeps most of the time, at least she still recognizes her kids – her own mother was even more senile and didn’t recognize anybody. She would fall asleep at meals, so the family had to hire a personal caregiver for her, to make sure she didn’t die of starvation!
    I think I’ll take whatever comes.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Whoa, Lucy. Twelve good reasons to die before hitting your nineties. You almost have me convinced here that I should shorten my timeframe. I guess, like you, I’ll take what I can. But that makes all this occupation and worry over eating the right foods and exercising a lot more difficult to put up with. Which may lead to a less-than-hoped-for lifespan. Sigh. I wonder if sleeping might possibly come more easily in my nineties? Yes, all this wishing and dreaming for long life is all off if I have dementia.


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