581 Age Gage
This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.
I’ve entitled this episode “Age Gage”.
I am moving on in years. Here I am knocking on the door of 76 and I’m not sure if I have lived to a ripe old age or not. I would say yes but I’m not positive. Things like this need to be understood to give us a clear picture of our own life and the life of others. How do we know if someone has lived to a “ripe old age?” I guess it is pretty simple to most folks but it isn’t simple to me.
When I think of establishing some sort of an age gage to guide me I always consider the first real death that brought an end to a friend of mine. Gene Hoverstein was 11 years old when he drowned in the Iowa River. It was a hot summer day and Gene was anxious to get wet. We were swimming buddies.
Now my mother lived in fear that I would drowned in that river. She made me promise to never swim within an hour of eating. I suppose 30 minutes had passed since I had eaten lunch and Gene was pushing to go in the water. I held to my promise and stayed at the Shamrock Cafe playing pin-ball.
Gene wouldn’t wait. The river was just one block away and he went in just above the dam. We never swam there. I came to the river shortly there after and saw him struggling. He was trying to grab hold of a barrel float just above the dam that was placed there to warn boaters away. He flailed about and then disappeared. I ran to the post office just two buildings away and yelled for help. Jigs Wilson the postman sounded the fire alarm and we ran to the river.
The firemen brought a boat they were soon using grappling hooks to look for Gene. They found him and brought him up on shore right where I was standing. He was all blue and ivory color. It was the first time I had seen death. Gene never got a chance to live to a ripe old age.
Since that day I always wondered about what qualifies as living a long time. If he had lived twice as long -age twenty-two would that qualify. It seemed that way to me at the time. Twice as long. That seems like a lot. How about 44? Four times as long. Would that qualify? I was sure that was a long time.
Now I see that the average lifespan in the US is eighty-one. Now that sounds like living to a ripe old age has become the norm. If I died today I think my kids would say I had lived to a ripe old age. I’m not sure they would but I hope they would. I certainly don’t think I have been short changed. My age gage for human beings is still tied to my childhood friend. It looks like I will never get away from that.
Who knows how often we have each come close to death in our lifetime while driving, playing with guns, playing with heights, playing with other people’s personalities. We have all experienced those moments when we exclaim, “Wow! That was close.” Life after one of those is bonus.
I just read in the paper today about a guy 110 years old. He just took a second wife. He first wife is 85 years old. His new one, the second one; she is thirty. Just a bit of an age difference. He said that his first wife just wasn’t meeting his needs. I’m not sure exactly what he meant but we can all guess. Just let our imagination run wild. One thing for sure: most of us would agree that he did live to a ripe old age.
My problem with time has been a constant in my life. What is a long time? I get bogged down. One winter while living in Alaska I was reading all of the books written by the archeologist Loren Eiseley. He was absorbed with time - geological time. My view of time expanded.
The following summer we launched into a house building project. On one wall of our living room I insisted on a timeline being painted. It stretched about thirty feet in length and was about a foot wide. It started with the earth being formed 4.5 billion years ago. It then moved. In units of billion just a foot or two and then a lightning-bolt sliced it indicating a significant jump to millions of years which also ran just a few feet until another lightning-bolt cut the length of time to hundred of thousand, then thousand and eventually hundreds were the last units used. Across the spectrum were small painting and words like, trilobites, oil and gas fields laid down, dinosaurs, ice age, Neanderthal man, Buddha, Caesar, Columbus, Darwin and ended with the beginning of the Sierra club.
When I think of a ripe old age I just have a hard time. I like to think that in order to lay claim to a ripe old age one has to be a rock.
This is Retirement Talk.