Tomorrow is my Dad’s 84th birthday. (It’s a big birthday weekend in my life). And last night, during his “goodnight call,” we were discussing our plans for tomorrow. See, every night since my Mom passed away almost five years ago, I call my Dad about 11:30PM to chat a minute or two, tell him “Goodnight” and tell him that I love him. (I never got that “call” with my Mom, so I want to be sure my Dad hears I love him almost every day). Anyway, as I said, tomorrow is his 84th birthday and my Sweetie and I are driving to my hometown to take our Pop-pop out to lunch at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. He likes it there and thinks it is amazing that you can get “…all that food for only $8.95/person.” I always smile when he says that…
So, with plans made for tomorrow, our conversation – usually a re-cap of an Indians game (when in season) or the Browns (when they are winning) – turned to the meteor fly-by that happened last month. According to my Dad, a meteor nearly a quarter mile in diameter kinda’ “snuck up” on Earth and blew past our planet at a safe distance. But, it appears the reason my Dad was talking about this event – which I had no idea even happened – was that this same course of events is scheduled to repeat itself in nineteen years! And, apparently there is some reason to be concerned that, due to projected possible orbital changes over those years, the meteor could pass very close to Earth or even strike us. Yowzers! Gloom and doom! I just kind of humored my Dad and said something like, “Well, Pop-pop, then we better be ready and have a supply of water and dried rice on hand.” My Dad simply replied,
“You better be ready, son, cause I’m not gonna’ be around in nineteen years.”
I won’t lie. It was all I could do to not cry when he said that. I mean, I always joke that I will live to be at least 100 (I’m 55, BTW). So, when I came back at my Dad with, “But Daddy, you will only be 103 when the world might be ending – don’t you wanna’ stick around and watch that?” I thought he would chuckle and make some smart-alecky remark. Instead, in a clear, calm voice, he simply repeated,
“Son, I told you, I won’t be around in twenty years. I’ll be long gone before that…”
I tried to laugh it off, and I think I did OK with him on the phone. We chatted a few more minutes about leaf blowing (thrilling topic, in case you didn’t know), then I told him I loved him and wished him “Goodnight.” He did the same.
Thing is, after I hung up, I got really sad. I mean, to be honest, I suppose it is hard to imagine anyone living beyond 100 but the bigger part of that whole thing was, for me, when do you “know?” When do you acknowledge – not even accept, but just acknowledge – that your finite human existence might be winding down? Listen, I joke all the time I plan on living forever, but I know I won’t. Still, I have (in my head) at least 45 more years to do and see and laugh and all that “stuff.” What happens when you realize you probably really only DO have a decade or so left? How do you prioritize what is important? Is that when you make one of those stupid Bucket List thingies?
How do you mark time, once you have accepted/acknowledged that it is windowed, limited, finite? I am pleased and proud that my Dad lives totally independently on his own, in the same house that he has lived in for around 45 years. He knows every nook and cranny – he feels safe there, and loved. I feel good that he feel safes there. He lived there with my Mom for 40 years and she is “still there,” and I think that gives him comfort and peace of mind. It does the same for me…
I guess the conversation last night in an unintentional-but-necessary way reminded me that life is not infinite, that we need to always be present and not take one moment for granted. I like to think I know/knew all that stuff already, but it is good to remind myself of those truths and goals frequently.
My Pop-pop is one smart guy. He maybe doesn’t know that; I might have to tell him tonight before we exchange our “Goodnight’s.” Better yet, maybe I will tell him tomorrow over a buffet plate piled high with Crab Rangoon and Peanut Chicken. It just makes sense to nourish my spirit/soul and my body, all at the same time…