My brother acquired polio when he was only 18 years of age. Outside of the restricted use of his limbs, he was able to get around fairly well and expressed a relatively positive outlook on life. He had a lot of friends, loved to travel, loved to join in fireside sing-alongs. In short, aside from his handicap, he enjoyed life more than many other people that I know. Unfortunately, as he got older, his polio worsened and eventually had to accept the fact that he needed more care than his family could provide, so he was placed in an Extendicare Home in Regina, Saskatchewan. Even there, we communed by telephone at least once a week, and even more often as time went on.
My brother had a sharp, thinking mind and we enjoyed hours of conversations on most topics, especially religion and politics. But, in time, I could tell that, although he and I communed often, loneliness was becoming his greatest enemy. Real conversation with other human beings is what he missed in his new Extendicare home. Not that there weren’t other people in the home besides himself: there were lots of them. Unfortunately, most of them were there because their minds were deteriorating, either through dementia or Alzheimer disease, robbing them of any attempt at meaningful conversation.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” This is what was happening to my brother. As he sat at the dinner table and watched others around him, some of whom were so far gone mentally that they had to be spoon fed, he saw his own future: humanity–himself, slowly dying.
My brother passed away last year. I’ll miss him!
Loneliness, if not the greatest enemy to mankind’s well being, certainly ranks high in its destructive power. That’s why we have church organizations, YMCAs, YWCAs, community centers. They are all there to help us combat loneliness. Rare is the individual that does not need the companionship of another human being. Man is a social being. We need each other to survive!