I worked in live theater many years ago. It was a blast. Consequently I still have tons of obscure musical theater trivia lodged in my brain. There is an old musical named “I Do, I Do.” It’s about marriage, cast with only 2 actors…the husband and the wife. One musical number always stuck in my brain.“My Daughter is Marrying an Idiot”. I think it was so lasting because I’m sure my father had the exact thoughts when I got married the first time. And, I have a daughter…and she did the same thing. It was a few years ago on April 19. I was sick about it. It took 7 Xanax and a martini to get me through the wedding without punching anyone. On her first anniversary, my youngest brother passed away. It was unexpected, it was awful. It was a sign. My daughter ended up, for the best, divorced. Spooky, huh? Somehow, I always had a feeling that my brother took a bullet for the family, so to speak If he had to go, he went on a day that would taint it forever…for the greater good, maybe? Dying is bad, but timing is everything, and I gotta give him props for that!
I’m not sure if it was my brother’s lifestyle or the cardio-myopathy the did him in. Until he passed, I never even knew his heart trouble was as dramatic as it was. I remember him being sick with some kind of infection when he was in his late teens. I remember my Dad telling me it affected his heart. I remember Dad made Jon quit the swim team. That is all I remember about any “heart stuff”. None of it seemed all that dramatic, but we had no internet or WebMD back then, so I just went on word of mouth and there were never many words about it. Jonathan lived his life with the reckless abandon of the baby of any family. After his death, I did a little research and learned that his condition was a WAY BIG deal. That diagnosis comes with an expiration date of about 5 years. Jon made it for 20-ish years. Pretty amazing considering…
He was 16 years younger than me. OK, so that’s now twice he’s screwed up the family grading curve. First he shows up 16 years late to the family gathering and then he pulls that “last one in, first one out” move. That is not how it’s supposed to work. (Just for the record, if that’s how it’s going to work, I have a confession. Even though I look like the youngest, I am the oldest of the siblings and I will rightfully take my position back. Not that I’m trying to throw my sister or brothers under the Grim Reaper’s bus…I’m just sayin’)
Back to Jon. The specifics made me mad. He had heart problems but he drank and smoked and led a frat boy lifestyle. He had a very physical job that was probably way too demanding on his body. (Side bar please. Jon drove a beer truck, and thinking back to quite a few years ago, he was getting out of the truck and got bounced by a passing motorist. It’s all together possible that was one of God’s little hints to him to get a desk job! But, he didn’t)
I was mad because I had to show up for the funeral when I was still in that ‘you IDIOT’ phase of shock. At the time, it was the parallel with Steven that pissed me off. I let doctors fill my husband with so many drugs and so much radiation that his hair fell out, his joints wore out and his pee glowed in the dark. Dear Jon, You couldn’t stop smoking, you idiot? Can you see my thought pattern?But now I wonder if he made the ill-advised choices in his life because he felt like he had no reason to play it safe. If he thought he had a short term life expectancy, that sure explains his rocky-road, drama laden relationship with his older-than-me psycho-bitch girlfriend, his penchant for off-roading dirt bikes in unchartered areas and his bad habits in spending what little money he had. He didn’t know everything, but apparently he did know that you can’t take it with you, and he certainly lived by that old adage! As smart and sensible as I like to think I am, I might do the same damn thing if I had a “Sell By…” date stamped on my ass.
Johnny Carson used to say “Do you know how old ‘old’ is? It’s 15 years older than you are.” I’ve understood that joke for years, but as I get older I realized how insightful it is. Which brings me to thoughts of age in general. I know how old I am, but it really doesn’t mean anything to me. I stopped counting age hurdles once I passed 21 and became legally responsible for every decision I make. THAT was the REALLY big one. Now, the rest of the birthdays are just reasons to eat cake. So, I don’t pay much attention to aging until something big happens. Like births, sickness or death. Then it hits the headlines of my attention.
When people leave us in that early stage of adulthood, it’s devastating for a lot of reasons. It’s a new experience because death is supposed to be just for ‘old’ people. It’s a freak out because you suddenly realize that it could be you. Most importantly, it’s maddening because you weren’t ‘done’ with that person yet. “Game Over” frustration makes you want to kick something! Unfortunately, it’s often one of the harder learning experiences that get thrown at those of us in the remedial class of life.
So here’s the thing. People get old, and still have pretty great lives. People also get old, live miserably and then die. Young people take care of themselves and sometimes still don’t make it. I’d tell you to ask the vegan marathon runner who gets hit by a bus, but she’s being scraped up with a spatula and can’t really attest to the benefits of a healthy lifestyle! Some people don’t take care of themselves, get hit by a car and live. And people of all ages get sick and sometimes recover and sometimes don’t. The bottom line is: Life is really a crapshoot. What we all have is the time that is right now.
So if you’re over 21 and legally responsible for all your actions:
- Appreciate your family. If someone is willing to love you, love them back.
- Pet your dog and let her kiss you on the mouth. It won’t kill you!
- Make the best of your job. Even if it sucks, it’s better than NO job.
- Take care of your body. It’s the only one you’ve got and parts are hard to get!
- Be gentle with your feelings and the feelings of others. It’s all a big circle!
- Be loving to your mate. If someone signed to be your partner, you are very lucky!
- Getting mad is OK. Staying mad is bad for you. Ask the makers of Pepto Bismol.
- Breathe deeply and often.
- Watch a sunrise and realize how lucky you are to be there for it.
- And NEVER communicate in writing if you’re not as least as good as me! Paper trails are hard to live down!
It’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and you just don’t know what’s going to jump out of the dark next. So buckle up and go for the ride. Don’t worry about dying, you probably won’t see it coming. Just concentrate on living the best life you can have. And don’t even think about getting old. You won’t be old for another 15 years.