The older you get, the more you learn that you really don’t know anything. Life twists and turns in ways no one can predict, and when you get to be my age, you lose track of how many times you’ve been knocked off one path, only to discover it was never really your path at all. But while I’ve come to expect uncertainty in my life, I guess I always figured one thing would be a little more certain.
See, I’m 85 years old, and I really thought that someone I know would have died by now.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have lived a long life that’s been light on grief. And the last thing I’d want in the world is to lose a friend or loved one, especially before their time. It’s just that when you find yourself celebrating your 85th with your wife, parents, and all of your aunts and uncles milling about, you can’t help but step back and say, “Now wait a minute.”
My many years have furnished me with a whole lot of friends, and between the firm, the Elks Lodge, and my philanthropic work, I’ve got an expansive and vibrant social life. But when I sit down and think about it, there have been no fatal accidents, no diseases, no unexplained disappearances, and no sudden strokes or slow declines. Heck, even my boyhood dog, Virgil, is still slowly and steadily going strong. At this point, I really don’t know what I’d do without him!
…when you find yourself celebrating your 85th with your wife, parents, and all of your aunts and uncles milling about, you can’t help but step back and say, “Now wait a minute.”
For my own edification, I just sat down with my Rolodex to crunch the numbers, and by my roughest estimate, I’ve got nearly 400 friends and family members out there. And there are over 1.5 million new cases of cancer diagnosed per year. Now, statistically, you would guess it would have gotten at least one of them, right? But nope.
Sure, there have been a few close calls in there. My uncle Alvin, on my father’s side, has been in and out of hospitals since a nasty bout with pneumonia at a young age permanently weakened his lungs, but he just keeps on wheezing along. Once, I asked him the secret to his longevity, and he replied, “Sunscreen, maybe?” and lit another cigarette. And when my great-grandson was born nearly a dozen weeks early, I’ll admit my first thought was, “Well, this is it,” but the healthy, active 10-year-old boy he’s grown into would beg to differ.
As each year passes, I put more and more effort into making peace with the inevitability of death, mine included. But having never actually gone through the grieving process, I’m frankly just mystified about what may happen when the dam finally bursts. And while I could consult with any number of people, including all four of my grandparents who are alive and well, I guess I’ll just have to figure it out on the fly!
I cannot say whether my long, charmed, deathless life is a blessing or a curse. All I know is that it certainly has me scratching my head.