Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pink Hats 15: Don't Fear the Reaper





Grim reaper crossed out with red X
"Valentine is done...here but now they're gone...Romeo and Juliet...are together in eternity..."
Halley punched the off button like Ali going after Sonny Liston in the 6th.

 
"As if you know anything about it," she said, addressing the radio. "Bob, are you even listening to yourself? she asked, visibly exasperated, "You-are-sixty-two-years-old." She enunciated each syllable distinctly as though he was experiencing hearing loss. 


"Yes, I -- "
 

" -- You've never had children," she said, interrupting, "oh, you know the theory all right, but this is far from theoretical. When the girls enter college, you'll be 80, assuming you live that long. Do you need me to spell it out for you?"
 

"No, I --"
 

She interrupted him again. "You're in great shape, I'll admit, but no one lives forever."
 

They decided to take one car to Biddo -- official student slang for Biddeford -- in order to compare notes for a class they were team-teaching at the medical school on pediatric emergencies. He was beginning to regret using the opportunity to bring up the subject of adopting the twins.
 

"Is it my turn yet?" He waited a few seconds. Her expression suggested asking twice bordered on the suicidal. "I'll take that as a 'yes.' I can spell fine, thanks, and to tell you the truth, it scares the hell out of me."
 

He paused, then said, "Here's the thing, Hal, does anyone know how long they've got? Do you? Statistically speaking, yes, it's conceivable they'd have a younger father around longer. But do you remember that 32 year old I pronounced a couple of weeks ago? Passed out at his son's soccer game -- when he came to, he thought it must be the heat. In October? His wife insisted they call 911, he arrested en route to the hospital, and was dead on arrival. Prior to, he's in excellent health, no history, not even an ibuprofen for a headache. Beautiful wife, three kids -- the youngest in diapers -- six figures, the guy's at the top of his game. Cause of death? Undiagnosed cardiomyopathy. What do statistics mean to him now? Not a damn thing, not anymore."
 

"Maybe that's true, but it still doesn't change anything," she persisted.
 

"I'm not so sure, and neither should you be, if you don’t mind me saying. What if – wait, give me a chance with this – what if I make better use of my time than I might otherwise? What if, conscious of my age, I put more energy and devotion into loving my kids and ensuring they get the best of everything I am? What if I teach them how to live and care for themselves and one another whether I'm around or not? What if I'm a better husband and father because I'm unwilling to risk not having a second chance? You’ve said it yourself, we all live by faith to some extent."
 
"My God, you're getting religious. I'd almost given up on you."
 

"I don't know whether religion has anything to do with it or not. I do know none of us be can be absolutely certain we're going to make it home at the end of the day. The fact that we don't go crazy worrying about it means we anticipate or "believe," we will. That uncertainty doesn't keep Jessie from saying she loves me and I don't think it should interfere with my being a father. The truth is, I'm a good deal more concerned about caring for two infants while maintaining a practice than I am about how many years I'll have past 100.
 

"However, just for the sake of argument. My father was 97 and never spent a second in a retirement community or assisted living. Not only was he still practicing with a full patient load, the week before he died, he and my mother were planning a fourth or fifth "second honeymoon" in St. Martin. His father was 96 and his uncle, 108."
 

"Your mother had to be, I don't know, sixty something?" she asked. "I can't imagine losing Ted so young. Does she have any regrets?"
 

"Mom was exactly my age, I was 35. At his memorial and years later, she said the only regret she might have had would have come from never marrying him in the first place."
 
She shook her head. "All right, what about you? I'm sorry about this, but didn't you ever feel embarrassed about having a father so much older than all the others?"

 
"Do you mean, do I wish he was still living? Of course --"

 
"And that proves my point --"

 
" -- hold on, let me finish. How could I not wish that? My father was the model for 'engaged.' He taught me to ski, we did Scouts together, he was there at every critical point in my life as well as the ordinary ones. He was my best friend and my father. Was I ever embarrassed about his age? If you'd known him, you wouldn't have to ask. My friends all wished their dads were more like mine and said so. I can only recall one occasion when anyone tried to play the age card. The school smart ass made a crack about my 'grandfather' and my friends were on him before I could speak. I'd love to have more time with him, to introduce him to Jessie, to share him with grandchildren. But I don't need more time and that's what makes the difference. I had him and that was always more than enough for me." 

 
Halley said nothing, which he took as an excuse to continue. "I don't want his legacy to die with me. Is it selfish to want children at my age? Depends on who you ask, I suppose. Is it selfish to want to give as I've been given? Seems to me that runs counter to the definition of the word. I think it would be selfish to keep my father, my mother, all they've done, all the love I received, to myself. I may be wrong, but that's how I see it, it's how I have to see it, if life is going to make any sense at all." He pulled into a parking space a short distance from Alfond, turned off the car, and started to get out.

 
Halley turned toward him in her seat. "Wait," she said. "Bob, you are without doubt, the most stubborn S.O.B. I've ever known and you know I don't swear. Right or wrong is not for me to judge. I wouldn't contemplate what you are, in a million years, but I'm a grandmother and thankfully, I don't have to. But I'm going to say this: you -- and Jessie, if she wants in on this -- don't have to worry about childcare."
 
His face became a question mark. "Ted's been after me to retire forever." she said, "I'll need something to keep me busy, won't I?"


(Creative Commons image via Wikipedia. Don't Fear the Reaper words and music by Donald Roeser -- Blue Oyster Cult --
copyright 1976)

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