Monday, April 15, 2013
I turn 65 this week. George Burns once said that he gets up in the morning, reads the obituary page, and if he's not in it, goes ahead and orders breakfast.
I am paying more attention to the obituaries. When I see that someone who has died lists a birthday later than mine, I feel like I"m cheating someone. That feeling of guilt intensifies when I read that one of my high school classmates or one of my old war buddies has passed.
"Why me?", say I. Why did she or he die and not me? Surely they led better lives than mine! That attitude is, of course, blasphemous. It presumes that we have some insight into God's standards, that he who outlives another is somehow more fortunate. It also presumes that death is a bad thing and not equal to God's other rewards.
And when I am equally short-sighted I tend to arbitrarily group a number of years and project some frame of reference about what that term of years may mean. For example, I consider myself a newcomer to Arizona, having moved here 9 years ago. Then that magic "9" starts flashing in the forefront of my mind and I think "wow!"..nine years!"..."the time has gone by so fast and yet I will be extremely lucky to have nine years left! It is then I begin to think I need to visit the crematorium and have a quiet conversation with the management there so that my family won't be burdened with "the details".
Ironically, I don't have the same fear of death that I had when I was eight years old! I can still remember lying in bed and saying my prayers. That "if I should die before I wake" scared the hell out of me! Will that nasty trick I pulled on my little brother today seal my fate? Will making fun of my sister guarantee my ticket to hell?
So, I approach my 65th birthday with appreciation for the bonus days; yet selfishly bemoan the little that is likely left of my life. Then I feel small and mean when I read that someone far younger has been taken far too soon.
When I'm feeling especially feisty, I contemplate what fun it would be to "sting the moneychangers in the temple". I live a pretty frugal life, own a FICO score of 800, have excellent credit, and could probably write $30,000 dollars of Credit Card Cash checks first thing Monday morning and fly off to Paris and Rome and Monte Carlo for a little high stakes roulette and let Visa and Master Card try and get any of it back. I could re-finance my home at 2.5% on a 7 year term loan and leave the mortgage holder holding the bag when I croak in year six!
Instead, I guess I'll just keep plodding along, dealing with the aches and pains and stiff joints associated with aging. I'll score senior discounts at my grocery store and order the "Senior Slam" at Denny's. Age has brought me immense appreciation for our natural world. It has given me time to bond with my doggies now that my children are grown. I no longer go to sleep with "if I should die before I wake", but probably should. I am surely no less grateful when I wake to the morning sun shining through my bedroom window.
And finally, yes I do consider the spiritual nature of my life..and and death at some unknown time. When I see that someone I know has passed I try and comfort myself, and to resolve my "why", by believing that my creator believes I have more work to do, something meaningful to leave the world where once I dwelled.
So, in three weeks or so, my Medicare card will activate, I'll have reached full Social Security maturity, I'll get a tiny increase in my scheduled tax deduction and I'll keep an eye on the obituary page. If I'm not listed I'll go ahead and scramble a couple of eggs. :)