Sixty and Still Here
Imagine if you will being six years old, watching your grandfather die at fifty-nine from lung cancer and having your own grandmother tell you that you and your father will also die before age sixty. Terrifying, right?
Then visit a Jamaican voodoo woman with your girlfriend when you are sixteen and hear from this woman who does not know you that you will not complete your sixth decade.
Jump from there into the army during the Vietnam War and exacerbate the problem by entering into a special occupation with a six weeks to six months life expectancy. Not enough?
Add to that a visit to a psychic with your spouse when you are twenty-one for a question that she wanted to ask about getting cancer herself. While there have the woman take your hand and look you in the eyes and say “I’m so sorry.” You ask about what and she says “You will not see your sixtieth birthday.”
You can rationalize that it is all bull and that your grandmother was just a mean old woman who was hurting from her loss and was lashing out. The other two were just saying things that would scare you into coming back and paying them for further “readings” or potions to “save you.”
You can do all that. But it doesn’t take the creepy thoughts out of the back of your mind. The “what-if” machine works overtime and no matter how scientific and rational you are it is difficult to not wonder about it. Three people who don’t know each other and two of them know little to nothing about you, have all said the same thing.
When I was young and going at life full-tilt I didn’t worry about reaching sixty. Most of us didn’t believe we would see thirty. Considering what I did as a young man it was very unlikely that I would survive more than a few years anyway.
Then your child grows up a little more and you can’t imagine leaving her alone so you change your occupation to something less life threatening. Life throws you a curveball and you have to go back into the military, but you choose differently this time and try to be safer. Two more kids come along and you definitely can’t check out now.
Out of the military again and the transition period from soldier/sailor to civilian begins. The things you had to do in the military cause nightmares and guilt to nearly drive you crazy but you persist because your kids need you.
Age starts accumulating and another life change happens where one marriage ends and another begins. You still have the nagging voice in the back of your mind saying “remember the predictions… sixty is it.” You take out the maximum life insurance policy at work. Even at that stage when asked about retirement you give your standard answer, “I will die on the job. I won’t live long enough to retire.”
The opportunity to manipulate your service time around and retire at fifty-six happens and you go for it. The whole process is a fairy tale to you for years afterwards because even after you do it, you don’t believe that it happened. My own prediction of not living long enough to retire has failed. I’m good with that.
The years tick down to the magic number “sixty” and even on the night before your birthday you still have the voice in your head saying, “OK, this is it, get ready.”
It took until the day after my birthday to believe that I wasn’t going to die somehow and make those predictions come true. I didn’t want it to be true, but I have heard it since I was six years old and it was ingrained into my psyche.
So what happened, why am I still here? Was it because I changed my lifestyle, or altered my path? Did I do enough good deeds to help my karma? I don’t buy into the God’s plan story so it shall remain a small mystery.
What have I learned from this?
You live until you die, so don’t stop living prematurely. And, that the how and when you cease to be are vastly unimportant when compared to how you live right now. By “how you live” I mean how you treat the people, animals, planet around you. Is the world a better place because you are in it? If not, you still have a chance to make it so.