Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Too Old to Just Break Free and Run?

I'm lucky in a billion and ten ways, but one of my special blessings is genetics. I'm not talking about the cute genes (though a quick look at my family photo album on either side would attest to that), but about longevity and health. I never met my paternal grandfather, he died when my dad was a teenager, and the other one I was privileged to have in my life until three years ago before he passed away due to Alzheimer's. Other than that--though of course we have had some devastating losses in the immediate and extended family--I, in my mid-to-late 30s can make the remarkable claim of having two grandmothers. And unbelievably robust grandmothers they are, let me tell you. Plus a lot of great-aunts and uncles who are mainly 80 and older, with a fair handful being in their 90s. I'm thinking of this because I saw a picture from a surprise 90th for my great-aunt--my maternal grandmother's sister--that took place this past weekend and two of her even older sisters were in attendance. They all look amazing for any age, and for the most part their health has been consistently great. My paternal grandmother, who will turn 90 this March, just as she is scheduled to become a great-great grandmother, takes one baby aspirin per day at last count, and that was it.

So what I'm getting at, I guess, is that as long as I continue to look both ways when I cross the street and eat the minimum of leafy greens, I have a fairly good shot of being a proper old broad. Nothing's guaranteed, obviously. But it's cool to have empirical data on my side. Not that I want to live forever or even until 100, but I have a lot I want to do still in life and it's a true comfort to have the conceptual luxury of time being on my side, as much as it is for anyone. Of course to a lifelong procrastinator (also genetic, on one side) this is a dangerous concept to have in-pocket, but if it's delicious enough of a thing I can usually go against that nature and do what I want to do as soon as possible. Like go to Mexico next year. And take breakdancing lessons as soon as time and finances allow. And yes, be a writer. But most importantly spend time with and cherish the people I have in my life, the 90 + ones, and the wee squishy ones, because I bear witness every day to how there are no guarantees.

I guess this is ending a positive entry on a maudlin note, but really I want to celebrate one example of a life cut short. There are so many Jeff Buckley performances that go beyond beyond (it's practically cheating to add him to this category) but his voice was from a different planet and this is my favorite example of how pain can translate beauty and how a brilliant vocal can transport the listener.

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