Monday, November 1, 2010

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

(original post date: October 27, 2009)

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.


Linda Medrano said...

I so do not want to live to be 140. I'm already too old to die young! And that's fine! But 100 plus? No thanks!

Holly Wolly said...

thanks for stopping by my blog...I hope you come back! haha
And if I happen to be around after when I'm 140, and you are too, please come find me and shoot me...'s always nice to have someone to fall back on...

Lazarus said...

I agree with you 100% Katie. There's an old saying in Ireland "It's a great life if you don't weaken." How can you not weaken at 100...110...120...etc? Glad you didn't trip into that SUV's path, the blogosphere would be the poorer for it! (oh, and the world too...I forget that blogs aren't everything...)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Katie--I am completely with you. My dad has alzheimer's--he no longer knows anyone, his quality of life sucks, but physically, he just keeps plugging along. I decided a while ago that if I am ever diagnosed with the same disease, hopefully my procuring a stockpile of pills will coincide with a lucid moment, because there is no way I want my family to deal with what we are now dealing with. (I hope you don't take this the wrong way, since you lost your father a couple of years ago...)

Anonymous said...

Don't think I want that either. I think I would be sooooo tired! Better ask me when I am a 139 though, I might have changed my mind.
Maybe in the days when people lived to around 37, they thought the same about reaching sixty. Hmmm, I think I shall leave it to fate.
Your close shave with that SUV reminded me of waiting to cross the road with my eighteen month old daughter holding onto the pram handle. I moved to cross, she stood back. I urged her to step off the kerb then looked down to see a gaping hole in the road. Someone had removed the manhole cover. One more step and she'd have slipped down there. Makes me shiver even now to remember... some twenty five years later!

Paul C said...

I am reminded of James Hilton's Lost Horizon. At Shangri La one could grow up gracefully and live to be past 100 surrounded by good books, tea, nature, conversation....I am working on a quality first 70, if I'm lucky...Excellent post.

Cheryl said...

Well said. When I was younger, I didn't understand my mom's attitude. Still don't since she doesn't even bother to pretend to take care of herself. I do comprehend the desire to live well one day at a time.

Cindy said...

wow, is'nt that something. I sure as hell don't want to live to be 140 and like u said, we would be taking up nothing but space and resources from the younger ones. Ha, and definitely if ya don't get it right in the first 70 years, it is not gonna happen....

PS thank you for visiting my blog and encouraging me