Wednesday, February 8, 2017

February 8: So Old, This Mortal Coil, Blood Pressure Pills

From there he traveled in time to 1965.  He was forty-one years old, and he was visiting his decrepit mother at Pine Knoll, an old people's home he had put her in only a month before.  She had caught pneumonia, and wasn't expected to live.  She did live, though, for years after that.

Her voice was nearly gone, so, in order to hear her, Billy had to put his ear right next to her papery lips.  She evidently had something very important to say.

"How . . . ?" she began, and she stopped.  She was too tired.  She hoped that she wouldn't have to say the rest of the sentence, that Billy would finish it for her.

But Billy had no idea what was on her mind.  "How what, Mother?" he prompted.

She swallowed hard, shed some tears.  Then she gathered energy from all over her ruined body, even from her toes and fingertips.  At last she had accumulated enough to whisper this complete sentence:

"How did I get so old?"

Another passage about time travel.  Billy jumps forward over twenty years and finds his mother not just old, but ancient.  Unable to even talk in complete sentences without becoming exhausted.  And she's bewildered by her age, unsure how she ended up in her current state.

I sometimes wonder at my age, too.  I'm not sure how I got here.  Homeowner.  Husband and father.  College professor.  I look at myself in the mirror and don't recognize the person I've become.  When I was my daughter's age, I never thought I'd live past thirty.  I'd already cheated death once--ended up in a diabetic coma with a blood sugar approaching 900 at the age of 13.  The doctors didn't think I was going to make it.  But I did.

That experience made me dwell on death a lot when I was young.  I was always kind of a weird kid.  Horror films and Stephen King novels were staples of my pop culture diet.  After I nearly died, I took out my journal when I got home, and I wrote out the plans for my funeral.  I picked out the music, had a list of guests arranged with a seating chart.  Even picked out what outfit I wanted to be buried in.  Like I said, I was a weird kid.

I haven't lost my preoccupation with shuffling off this mortal coil.  I'm always very aware of the passage of time.  For example, it is just a little before nine o'clock at night, and I am ready for bed.  Exhausted.  That makes me feel old.  My daughter will be graduating from high school in a couple years.  That makes me feel old.  I take blood pressure pills.  Old.  I worry about cancer and heart attacks.  Old.  One of my greatest pleasures is taking a nap.  Really old.

Of course, I am thankful that I lived past thirty.  I'd have missed a whole lot of wonderful if I hadn't, including my two kids.  But, like Billy's mother, I still sometimes say to myself, "How did I get so old?"  I grunt when I get out of chairs now.

But Saint Marty wouldn't change a thing in his life.  Maybe he'd want a little more hair.  That's all.

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