The scary and tragic part about aging
Maybe it’s my age that has a lot to do with it, but the tragedy surrounding 81-year-old Ethel Simpson of Clinton scares me to death.
While I still have a few years before I reach the 80s, I'm well aware that I've already made it to the age that predators find conducive to their predatory ways of operating. Put another way, my senior citizen classification makes me more and more a sitting duck that's progressively vulnerable to smooth-talking charlatans.
“Inquisitive” and “strong-willed,” friends and loved ones said of Simpson, who was known to travel to events in the late hours of the night. Following her husband's death five years ago, the normally sedate and quiet lady “definitely changed,” said her son, Ken Simpson. “Suddenly, I had a mother on my hands who wanted to be in motion all the time.”
Convicted sex offender and kidnapper James Hutto knew how to smooth-talk the Clinton widow and ended up allegedly bilking her of an undisclosed amount at a Vicksburg casino, murdering her and leaving her body at a secluded site in a hog farm.
Judging from many of the widows and widowers I've known, personality changes appear to be a fairly common characteristics.
My own mother practically wrote the book about living the simple and cheap life when my sisters and I were growing up – She would cook three eggs and two pieces of bacon cut in half for a family of five – but after we had all married and Daddy had died, things changed in major ways.
Suddenly, this same woman who had only once ever left her home state of Florida and who had thoroughly brainwashed her offspring into believing that it's a sin to squander any amount of money on travel and vacations of any kind, all of a sudden, this same woman thought nothing of spending weeks away from home traveling and frolicking at points around the world.
Don't ask me why because Mama never was, shall we say, tolerant of foreign lands, their people and customs. Whenever she'd get back home, I'd always ask her what foods she tried, knowing full well what her reply would be.
“I didn't dare eat anything there! I packed plenty o' Nabs and other snacks I bought before I left home,” she said every time.
Mama became extremely clothes conscious, too, after Daddy died. She didn't go overboard, but her concern for her clothes was a far cry from her usual “cheap is good but cheaper is better” philosophy she pounded into us children.
With her children living in distant cities and no vacation in the works – she was legally blind and losing her hearing – Mama was, at times, lonesome. Shortly before she had to move to an assisted living facility, I called to ask one of my sisters how Mama was doing.
“It's so sad, Vernon,” she said. “Mama told me she gets up in the morning and dresses, but she has nowhere to go and nothing to do. So, she basically sits there all day long listening to the TV.”
I guess I should be glad and thankful there was a middle-aged, unmarried man from the church she attended who visited with Mama practically every day. He even took her out to meals and accompanied her at various events. On at least one foreign trip, he went with her under the guise of assisting her because of her sight and hearing challenges.
By all appearances, he was a nice guy, but maybe it was the way Mama acted when he was around that caused her offspring considerable concern for her well-being. Her personality had changed and, frankly, we were afraid her decision-making abilities had eroded. We knew she was vulnerable, but in her mind, she was indestructible.
Thankfully, Mama's “friend” wasn't at all like the murderer who preyed on Mrs. Simpson. But he could have been, and it's very likely Mama would have thought along the same lines as Mrs. Simpson did and viewed him as just a nice guy who was willing to spend a little time making an elderly lady's life a little better.
It's easy for me to read about the tragedy surrounding Mrs. Simpson and wonder how people can be so naïve and gullible. It's easy to say something like that would never happen to me because I've “been around the block” a few times. I know the ropes. I know my way around this ol' world.
Maybe now I can fend for myself, but how will things be when I'm all alone in this world, my mind's getting cloudier and cloudier, and there's nothing to do but to get dressed and watch TV.
I'm telling you the truth. It scares me to death.