Thursday, November 8, 2007

58 is enough

Sometimes I think I’d be happy to die at age 58.

Chip and I have talked about this a few times, and neither of us came up with enough reasons why we’d want to live to be 88 years old. (Ironically I once thought I wanted to live to be 107 years old.)

Disease and illness is a part of life for the senior population. Nobody lives to 75 without health problems. If you can get to 58 without cancer or a nasty disease, you’re lucky. What are the odds you will dodge those bullets for another 10 years?

By the time you’re 58 you’ve already been through something, most likely. And even if you’re in good shape, doctors will be probing your prostate and putting you through other uncomfortable tests. At that point it’s only a matter of time.

People can still live healthy, productive lives when they reach 70, but no matter how well you treat your body, old age is going to take its toll. Sure, I’ll still have hair if I’m alive when I’m 77, but I’ll have old man skin, breasts comparable in size to that of a high school girl, although not nearly as perky, and a collection of disposable diapers for those moments when the old man’s body has an involuntary spasm. Ooooh, sign me up for that program!

And let’s be honest, there’s a reason they don’t have strip clubs featuring dancers over 40. You may be old, but if you’re not dead chances are a near-naked 21-year-old at the shopping mall is going to register the last sign of life below the Mason-Dixon Line, not the 75-year-old widow eating prune pudding for dessert at the senior center lunch program.

There’s nothing I want more than to be some cranky old man watching young hotties flaunt their bodies, reminding me my best years are long gone. Chances are I’m not going to be as successful as J. Howard Marshall, so there’s not going to be an Anna Nicole Smith to feed me pureed meals in my old age.

In a perfect world a 58-year-old guy will have a wife to grow old with, enjoy the sunsets with, discuss colonoscopy results with and perhaps visit grandchildren with. Last I checked the world isn’t perfect.

When the last pope, JP2, died he was 84. I was 34 at the time. The thought of another 50 years of life held little appeal to me, especially if my final years are comparable to JP2’s final years. That guy knocked on heaven’s door seemingly every other year, yet repeatedly managed to rebound. I was sure that guy was going to live another five years when he finally cashed in the communion wafers.

But the thought of another 50 years, oy ve! I wasn’t sure I had the energy for another 34 years, let alone 50.

I think it was at that point I determined 58 was a decent age. You start to become an old man, but if you take decent care of yourself, you’ll be OK. David Letterman reminded me of that not so long ago. When I realized he was 60 and looked decent for his age, 58 seemed about right.

If you can dodge a lot of significant health problems by 58, you’ve had a good run, and chances are the odds will catch up with you beyond that point. And if you’ve had more than your share of health issues at that point, chances are you’re not going to be magically healthy beyond that point, so there’s not a lot of reason to hold on.

While I have thought about this far too much, it’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m not going to take a flying leap off the Golden Gate Bridge on my 59th birthday. It’s not up to me to decide.

While I agree that life is too short, unlike an aging athlete trying to hang on in the 59th minute of his playing career, if I make the most of the time I have on this planet, would I complain if I go out with a little left in the tank? Well no, I’d be dead, how could I?

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