Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Are You Waiting For? (Some Thoughts on Life Expectancy)

Last Spring, I participated in a few sessions of a women’s networking group. I was looking for ways to promote my novel, The Somebody Who, and I thought these monthly gatherings might be helpful. At the third of the three consecutive meetings I attended, I grabbed a chair that was next to a woman who was new to the group (or, at least, new to me). She was raving about something she had heard that day. She was excited because she had learned that some authority somewhere had suggested that life expectancy could be 140.

When I rolled my eyes, I must have done so audibly. When she turned to me, I apologized. “Sorry,” I said, holding up my novel. “But I’m here promoting a story about dementia. I just can’t get excited about that news.”

But she was. She really was excited by the prospect of living to be 140. And I just don’t get that.

You want to live to be 140? What? You want to take up space and resources that other, younger people need? Are you kidding? How do you envision all those extra years? You think you’re gonna have some good times? You think that, as you near the end, you’re gonna still have it together? Hell, I could be wrong; maybe you will live to be 140. Maybe, in fact, you’ll be in such good shape that you'll be able to comfort that daughter of yours. You know the one I’m talking about … think ahead: your little girl is 115, and she’s going through a rough time. But the two of you are close (who wouldn’t be after more than a century of bonding?), and so she’ll appreciate your words of motherly wisdom. She’ll appreciate your telling her, “Hang in there, honey. And don’t worry. It’ll all get better soon. The 120’s? Those are the best!

… A part of me feels that if you don’t do the first 70 right, you don’t get another 70. You just don’t. (And, if you do do the first 70 right, you don’t need another 70. Follow me?)

I know I’m weirdly cavalier about the whole lifespan thing. I remember, three or four years ago, when I was getting ready to go back to Virginia to see my folks, a friend here in L.A. said, “Remember, Katie, this might be the last time you see your Dad.”

“That’s true for all of us,” I replied. “Every time we see each other. That might be the last time.”

Case in point:

In early March of '08 (a few weeks before my Dad died), I was running an errand in the Valley. I parked my car on Ventura Boulevard, and when I went to the meter, I realized I didn’t have enough change in my wallet. I had to head back to the driver’s side of my Corolla so I could get some quarters out of the compartment just left of the steering wheel. I took a broad step off the sidewalk, and when I took the next broad step, a piece of raised pavement threw me off in a big way. I tripped, but I didn’t fall. And after I didn’t fall, I took notice of the SUV that would have flattened my head if I had fallen.

Standing there, tripped but not fallen (still alive), only one thought crossed my mind: “That’s what I’m talking about, people! That’s what I’m talking about.”

Don’t wait for your 120’s for everything to fall into place. There are too many SUVs out there.

1 comment:

Mary said...

The nice thing about a very serious bout with cancer, in remission so far thanks to a bone marrow transplant, is not having to worry about being a lump in some dreary nursing home, drooling into my oatmeal.Even with the transplant, they only estimate about another 20 years from that point. With that in the back of one's mind, it's easy to see what is important what what's BS. Can't imagine having to get to 140 and wouldn't want to anyway.