I turned 68 this past year which means I am less than two years away from being 70. That is not an age I look forward to. It is, in my mind, the age when we go from being old to being elderly. And elderly is one of the words people use when it is time to start looking for a retirement home or a nursing home – or to start making plans to move in with one of the kids. God help them; God help me!
I think of 70 in this manner. If life were a flight across the ocean on a Boeing 747, 70 is the age when the pilot shuts off the in-flight entertainment system, and announces the cockpit is making preparations to land. It is the time when he (or she) tells the cabin crew to prepare for the landing and tells all of us passengers to return to our seats, to make sure our tray tables are up, to make sure our seats are up, to give all of our trash to the attendants and to turn off all of our electrical devices. It is that time when the attendants walk down the aisle to make sure we have our seat belts fastened. It is that part of the flight that is filled with a certain amount of apprehension. Will the plane crash on landing? Will my luggage be at the terminal or will it be lost? Will I go to Heaven? If two out of three ain’t bad, I am more than willing to give up my luggage.
Things being what they are, I am not optimistic that I have another ten years to live. I suspect I will be lucky to make it to 75. It seems a lot of people die around that age; and from what I can tell, I tend to be one of those “down the middle” kind of people when it comes to statistics and shit like that. I am old – on the verge of elderly – so I can use word like shit.
I have a brother who is two years, two months and one week older than me. We are the last remaining members of a family of five boys – six boys if you count the first child who died shortly after birth. My mother saw fit to count him and mourned his death all of her life so I think I will count him too. With that in mind, perhaps I should correct myself, we are the last members of a family of six boys. Anyway, my brother, by rights of first in – first out, should die before me by at least two years, two months and one week. I am hoping that doesn’t happen. He has grandchildren who love him and for their sake, I hope he lives longer than me. I hope he is the last man standing so his two grandchildren can get the maximum benefit of his benevolent ignorance. It isn’t really ignorance – more like southern pseudo wisdom under the guise of entertainment. They, his granddaughters, love that and love him.
My mother lived to be 92. Ever hear of the term “one off?” That, I am afraid, is what my mother was. My father died in his late 50s, my brother got killed in the Navy when he was 26 or so, another brother died when he was in his mid 60s and another brother died in his early 60s. Taking my mother out of the equation, I am already tilting my family’s longevity scale. My brother has tilted it even more than me – again by two years, two months and one week.
I do not mind coming to grips with my pending death. I have lived a fairly interesting life and I am grateful to God that my journey went from being a sharecropper chopping cotton for $4 a day to flying in the back seat of Navy attack aircraft, to living in Europe and having expensive dinners at fine restaurants in Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne, London, Stockholm and Turin. I am grateful that I have two children who, just by thinking of them, give me joy, and a wife who has put up with me all these years.
Before this metaphorical plane that is my life lands, I have some shit that I need to get done. I spent most of my adult life looking after my wife and children, making whatever sacrifices I had to make for their individual and collective benefits. I gladly put aside whatever I wanted to do – what was important to my self-identity to make sure the three of them could extend themselves to distant horizons. The thing is, now that I believe I am within seven or so years of the end of my life, I have shit to do. People call it a bucket list. I don’t. I just have some things that I need to do. One of those is to write a ten volume series of novellas, to finish a novel I am writing, and to learn to draw and paint several painting that simply will not leave my poor bedraggled mind. These are the things I have to do within the next seven or ten years to confirm my identity, to prepare for land, so to speak. The plane is circling.
By DG Crum
Oh, how I fear to walk that final path,
To bring to end my destiny,
For I have carried not the load
My Master gave to me.