Everyone knows that old people are senile.

I caught a cold three weeks ago, and was hit by a second one just as I was getting over the first. Within minutes yesterday, it went from my head to my chest. I can no longer breathe lying down, and breathing sitting up isn’t any great shakes either, so I suppose I either have pneumonia or close to it.

Dad was the last person to have pneumonia in this house. I remember the gurgling, coffee maker sound of his slow drowning, and the green froth that ran from his mouth in a steady stream. I found his death hard to watch and worse to listen to, but then he was my father. Attending a death is a privilege, and attending a parent’s death is a privilege many times over.

Thank God, my father died here at home, sans tubes, sans blood draws, sans all that kind of stuff that is a miracle to those who have a chance but torture to those who don’t. Save me from hospitals and nursing homes, if you please. If all else fails, and I am in pain, hide me in a ditch with a little bottle of morphine or, if you’re short on morphine, my .357, so I can die on my own terms, so I can embrace death as my final friend.

When Peggy was a young nurse, she took part in tying old people to their beds and treating them against their wills. After all, everyone knows that old people are senile even if they don’t act it. Besides, no person in his right mind would refuse everything that modern medicine had to offer, would he? No rational person would choose to die today if she could survive until tomorrow, regardless of the terms. Yes, Peggy did things then that she would not do now, and that were probably illegal even when she did them. But that’s one of the funny things about the law: large and respected institutions can simply ignore it when they think they’re helping someone, especially when the person they think they’re helping is powerless to resist. As it is said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”