I have a friend who claims his goal in life is to live forever.
“How’s it going so far?” I ask him.
“So far, so good!” he replies with a grin.
As I approach my eightieth year—having been alive for all or parts of nine different decades, the first being the 1940s—I don’t share that lofty goal, to be an eternal Methuselah. I confess, though, my friend does have me wondering about my chances. So far, I have lived out more years than three grandparents, three uncles, two of five aunts, and all four of my younger siblings (one of whom has already passed).
I’m currently the eldest of my surviving birth-clan, which includes three sisters, two daughters, and five grandchildren. My wife, almost four years my junior (strictly speaking, not a birth-relative), is also with us.
If I am destined to live longer than anyone in my family so far, I’ll have to make it through another fifteen years, which will leave me just five shy of my centenary. One grandmother made it to ninety, three aunts lived into their early-nineties, mostly intact, as did both my parents, so my genetic coding bodes well.
One goal I do have, perhaps more realistic than my friend’s, is to spend more years in retirement than I spent during my professional career. I worked for thirty-two years and retired at fifty-five, leaving me eight years to go before attaining that goal when I reach eighty-eight. So far, so good!
Back when I was a young thirty-ish man involved in several athletic pursuits, I used to joke that, if I had to die anytime soon, the best exit would come while sliding into third base, the game-winning run scoring ahead of me, with the last words I hear being the umpire bawling, “He’s safe!”
Older now, and less-inclined to make light of matters mortal, I’m pleased to say that goal was never realized. I’m still alive, no longer playing ball, and so far, so good!
As an aside, one of my more ribald teammates claimed his goal—never one of mine—was to die in bed, shot to death by an irate husband. To my knowledge, absent a willing bed-mate, he also never attained his dream. But I digress.
Baseball is not the only pursuit I have forsaken as the years have mounted up. Badminton, curling, cycling, golf, ice-hockey, in-line skating, and tennis are also sports I have abandoned in recent years. The main reason, given that I wish I could still partake in all of them, is that I came to fear major physical damage if I should come a-cropper. The risks began to outweigh the rewards, and I became determined not to end my life as an invalid.
These sacrifices notwithstanding, I certainly had no wish to finish my time on earth as a couch-potato, either. So, I still visit the gym to engage in low-impact activities such as rowing, weightlifting (low weights/high reps), and stretching exercises. I walk the corridors and stairs of my high-rise condo, and I still swim, although not as many laps as once I could manage. My goal is to stay active and limber, and so far, so good!
Paying attention to my personal health is a much greater priority now, too. I still remember an occasion (again, in my feckless thirties), when I called my doctor’s office to make an appointment for a physical exam. The receptionist couldn’t find my records for the longest time, and when she came back on the line, she said, “Okay, we’re good. I found them in the dead file.”
“The dead file!” I exclaimed. “What made you think I’d died?”
With a chuckle, she explained the dead file was the repository for records of patients who had not made an appointment during the previous five years. Five years! I was shocked to be informed it had been that long.
These days, of course, having lived into my ninth decade, I see my doctor much more regularly. My goal is to stay ahead of ailments that might slow me down, or put a crimp in the comfortable lifestyle I now enjoy.
That current, comfortable existence includes singing in a men’s a cappella chorus, a most enjoyable experience, still part of a team. It includes spending hours each day writing essays and poems for a regular blog, tales for a number of published anthologies, and stories for a series of published crime-fiction novels. I’m having the time of my life right now, as a matter of fact, and hope I can go on doing these things for a long time to come. So far, so good!
My wife and I are fortunate to be able to split our time between a home in Ontario and another in Florida. Each autumn, and again each spring, as our time in one draws closer to its end, we begin to look forward to our return to the other. Aside from the normal concerns associated with home-ownership, we find it’s an idyllic way to live, and we eagerly anticipate each change of the season.
In the unlikely event it turns out my friend is able to realize his own goal to live forever, I know he’ll bid me a fond farewell when my time comes, as it surely will.
But you know what? So far, so good!