“I’m not long for this world,” said an elderly friend to me yesterday morning. “Doc tells me my heart is pretty much finished so I could go at any time. Can’t really complain. It has served me well for 89 years, so I can’t ask for more than that.”
I hadn’t seen him in a few months and wondered if he were OK. Negligently (or humanly) I hadn’t bothered checking closely.
His statement nonplused me. Even more nonplused because he uttered it so matter-of-factly as if he were discussing the state of the weather.
I was also saddened. I like the man very much. He was in his day a very successful businessman. Indeed, one of the pillars of the community and virtually everybody knew his name and knew the company that bore his name. And even now, as an elderly man, he is sharp of intellect and a pleasure to be with. Always immaculately dressed, usually in shirt and tie in a rather casual – too casual, many think – community. And we’d see him walk by nearly every morning, and would often run into him in the park across the way.
“I’d like to be like him when I’m his age,” I’d say to Wendy. “He still has it all together; still walks like a young man; still seems to enjoy his life. Not so bad.”
So, what I’m wondering now is not so much that his life may be coming to an end. Personally, I hope his doctor is full of shit and that he’ll be around for years yet, but that’s possibly wishful thinking. That’s because I am a ‘geriatricophile’. I like me my old folks. I think it’s a legacy from my grandparents and my love of them. I think our elders can teach us much and I always find time with a senior to be worthwhile. My favorite character on the treacly Waltons was Grandpa. When old Will Geer died I didn’t bother watching any more. Didn’t much like the rest of them, especially that smug John-Boy jerk.
In recent years too many of my senior folk have died. They tend to do that. And now it seems my friend will be joining their numbers and move into the past-tense.
What struck me in our conversation, however, was how philosophical he was about it all. As I said, he was very matter-of-fact. Is that something that happens? Do we reach a point in which pending death seems as natural to us as any other aspect of life; that aspect being, it must end?
I don’t know, but in fact I hope that is the case. It wouldn’t make it seem so ominous.
Maybe I need to have a few more elderly people conversations to find out if that is indeed the way it is.