My Dad, a very wise man, used to say lots of pithy things like, “No one gets out of this life alive.” and “Getting old stinks, but it sure beats the alternative.”
He also used to say, “All things in moderation, including moderation.”
I used to roll my eyes and grimace. I was young. I was an idiot.
For a long, long time, I fully embraced the philosophy of the young, believing my life to be at least 10,000 years long and sure that I was basically untouchable by the fates.
I don’t know why I didn’t smarten up when young friends of mine died. A 14 year old classmate died of leukemia. A 26 year old very close friend was killed by a random bolt of lightning on the beach.
Why didn’t I start to realize then that life is a short and beautiful journey? Why didn’t I come to understand that every life, animal or human or plant, comes with an expiration date?
I don’t know. But I didn’t.
Now, of course, I am older and wiser. Parts of my body hurt on a regular basis. I pay attention to my diet and my bowels and my posture.
Now I take medication to lower my blood pressure. I have been told that my cholesterol is creeping up a bit, and that my blood sugar could use some tweaking. I should be eating more vegetables and fish, more tofu, more quinoa. I should be avoiding salt, and white bread and pasta and processed sugar.
I should definitely be cutting down on the alcohol and the caffeine.
But here’s the thing.
Even if I become a marathon running vegan tea totaler, one of these fine days, my time will run out.
Like everyone else, I come with an expiration date.
So the question that I am now wrestling with is this one: What do I give up in the pursuit of more life?
I want to be alive and vibrant when my grandchildren (hopefully!!!!) are born. I want to be a fun grandma. I want to dance at the weddings of my sons, just as I did at the wedding of my daughter last month. I want to be around long enough to travel, to buy that RV that Paul and I keep thinking about. I want to see the Grand Canyon.
I’d like to live long enough to see my tiny baby spruce trees grow to at least the height of my shoulder.
But. I don’t want to make it my life’s goal to wring out one more day or week or year. I don’t want to give up things I love, like good pasta and a delicious grilled steak and a great cold glass of prosecco. I don’t want to spend my time worrying about my blood sugar when I could be enjoying home made chocolate ice cream.
Life is not to be treated lightly. I love mine, and I’d like it to go on for quite a while. But I don’t want to spend what time I have left obsessing about death.
I won’t mind if I die while my friends are still around. I won’t mind if I die while I am still able to lift a glass and sing a round of song. I won’t be sad if I go out with a wonderful meal in my belly.
I guess I think that life for older folks is a balancing act. We don’t want to be irresponsible, or to throw away the gift that has been given to us. But we don’t want to forgo all pleasures in the hope that we can bargain with the devil and gain ourselves eternal life, either.
It may be too late to die young, but at least I hope that I will die with my joy intact.
Pass the ice cream please. Yes, I think I will pour some Kahlua over mine.