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Giving up getting older than dead

Dear Billie,

A far as your annual gathering of our old friends, I am envious. I have not seen any of these people for years—Jimmy since 1983! I have very fond memories of each of the participants (except the husbands, who joined the game long after I was defeated). Time away with them would be fun, honest, and revealing of them and me. Some people just bring that out, you know. You can’t be around them without baring parts of your innards you wouldn’t with many other people you know.

And we are all turning fifty soon. Here’s what I want to say at my fiftieth birthday. If I don’t happen to make it that long, you’ll get Rev. Dave’s version:

Fifty, I would normally say, isn’t so old. But there are people dropping all around me. And as they go, I have to think fifty is quite ancient, at least for hearts, brains, kidneys, lungs, skin, and so on. It turns out that when a kidney goes, the rest of everything falls apart. When your brain gets old, despite your age, you skip elderly and go back to childhood without collecting $200.

And how many friends are now former friends because their meatpackages have been disassembled by everything from bacteria to tiny pieces of copper and lead to Freightliner grilles?

Given the faultiness of the human machine and all the ways it and other things are trying to take it apart, I take heart in what the character Yossarian says of his dead friend Nately in Catch-22. He tells Luciana, his girlfriend that the 19-year-old Nately was a very old. Luciana protests, saying that he was young man.

“Well, he died. You don’t get any older than that,” Yossarian says.

It’s true. It’s true.

I will be very old when I die. I will be the world’s oldest human being!

I also think about just how anonymous we all are. Yes . . . We all feel special and individual. We will try to have bang-up funerals, fancy stones or urns, nice obits. But in the end, when every stone has a name, none makes a really personal statement. People quit coming after a while. Poof . . . Now you see it. Now you don’t.

Even when you attach your name to a building, say, the Johnson Building, no one knows who Johnson is or was. While jokers like me think Johnson’s a dick, the Johnson Building is really just another stone in the yard.

I think we all spend too much time worrying about how old we don’t want to be and we will be thought of when we get really old. I, for one, don’t care. I’ll be dead soon enough and won’t be able to do a damn thing about either that condition or fading memories others have of me.

There’s nothing more important than being able to wake up. After not being disassembled or sent to an early childhood, everything is gravy. When I don’t wake up, I’m not going to be around to miss it. I’ll be the oldest person on the planet.

So, wake up! Wake up!

We are aging. And, yes, I still feel like the most immature person in the room, besides feeling no older than 28. Soon, my meat package will disintegrate either on its own or at the hands of deadly nematodes. So, I am old, very old. I’m very young. Why, you might say that, except for my body, old and young balance each other out and I have no age at all.

I think of life as a joke played on unwitting tangles of organic molecules. I wonder if any of us will get out alive, which, as far as I know, no one has so far. Fortunately for me, a man with no age cannot be cursed unless he lives forever, and I can think of nothing more hellish than living forever.

Some people like that idea. I like the idea that even viruses, which are hardly even alive, share this thing called life with us and might even kill us. This is it, all of it, and because there isn’t any more, it’s all special.

Now you see it. Now you don’t.


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