Water for Elephants
Old Age Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Even in your twenties you know how old you are. I'm twenty-three, you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It's a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm – you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you're not. You're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it. (1.2)
Early on in the book, Jacob claims not to know how old he is. He's just old. He says that not knowing your exact age is "the beginning of the end"; in other words, once you have to think about how old you are, you're aging too quickly to keep up with. You leave behind the golden time of the 20s, enter full adulthood in your 30s, then start sliding down the slippery slope to old age. Depressing, right?
But there's nothing to be done about it. All I can do is put in time waiting for the inevitable, observing as the ghosts of my past rattle around my vacuous present. They crash and bang and make themselves at home, mostly because there's no competition. I've stopped fighting them. (1.101)
Jacob now lives more in the past than the present. He just keeps thinking back to the old days and spending time with his "ghosts." At first, it seems, he tried to remain grounded in the present and avoid the past, but there's just not enough going on in his life now to keep him interested. Defeated, he says he's just "waiting for the inevitable" (death).
One of the greatest indignities about being old is that people insist on helping you with things like bathing and going to the washroom.
I don't in fact require help with either, but they're all so afraid I'm going to slip and break my hip again that I get a chaperone whether I like it or not. (8.34-35)
A series of small indignities fill up Jacob's days and slowly wear away at his sense of self. First he can't eat what he wants, and now he can't even shower or pee by himself. Try to imagine that – company every time you've gotta go? He insists he can do these things by himself, so he's getting assistance he doesn't even want.