My dad once said he hoped not to live past sixty. He didn’t want to get old and doddering and forget things and put his pants on backwards. He didn’t want to work his wrinkled fingers to the bone because he never had anything like a retirement portfolio and so far his plan on hitting it big at the card table in a casino hadn’t worked out.
He got his wish, dying a decade earlier than that.
All my life I wanted to be just like my dad but after he died all I wanted to do was live and I couldn’t believe he had talked so carelessly about his time here.
I became a hypochondriac mercilessly scaring the wits out of myself on Internet search sites. Life seemed so precious and tenuous. It could end any moment as it did for my dad who was the youngest fifty- year old I knew.
I wanted to grow old.
And I still do; senile if necessary.
I want to wear whatever I damn well please. I want to dye my hair pink because I don’t have to show up any where at any time to collect any check. I want be able to see my children have children and maybe even more than that.
What I learned from his death at fifty was that getting old is not the end; it’s just the beginning, of another part of your life. My dad never got that other part and I’m pretty sure he might have missed out on something.
He never got to be grandpa. He never got to teach Beau how to do his go-to hook shot or show Matt what it means to put in a hard day’s work or teach Elizabeth how to drive with one finger on the wheel or show Donovan how to play poker or bet on a horse.
They never got to see him smile.
He never got to sit back and say, ”I did good and all is well.”
Inside my heart and my body and my brain I am carrying the memories of other people including my Dad that I have known and loved fiercely. They aren’t here anymore but I am and as long as I live to see another year, well then, so do they, sort of.
So, as I turn 43 this week I go into it knowing that every year is a victory not a curse, every year is an accomplishment, not a punishment and every year I’m going to be happily dragging a whole host of memories and others along with me.
If I get my wish, we’ll all be sticking around for a while.