My father passed away last week. He was 86, but it was unexpected. I’m not quite ready to write about it because I’m still processing and very sad. I’m finding it challenging to concentrate and stay motivated. But I’d like to republish this blog post I wrote about a year and a half ago. I’m so glad I wrote it when I did.
My father turns 84 today. How is he spending his birthday? By driving across country in his new Porsche, naturally. He bought it a couple of months ago on a whim and promptly described the experience of driving it as “like being in Heaven… without dying.”
Hard to argue with that. Though the Porsche has drawn different reactions from the family. Some think it was a huge waste of money – money that would have been better spent on his grandchildren’s college education, or invested in some stable but profit-earning entity, so it could make more money.
Others think, “Wow, good for him. Let him have fun.” The man has worked hard all his life and never been able to treat himself to something this luxurious. He’s lucky to be of sound body and mind, both of which he sarcastically attributes to “clean living.” To his credit, he did quit smoking in his 40s (half his life ago), and has exercised for at least 30 minutes daily ever since, swimming at his local pool. Despite his remarkable tip-top shape, one can sense that The End is on his mind.
“The Grim Reaper keeps calling and getting the wrong number… but one day he’ll get the right number.”
“I’d rather enjoy the Porsche now, then wait till later and have my funeral in a Porsche.”
What does it mean to be 84 years old in America?
It means you were born in 1929.
For the first 16 years of your life, the only President you knew was Franklin D. Roosevelt.You were a child of the Great Depression. Your parents either stayed rich, starved, or worked several jobs so that you wouldn’t starve.
Your main source of news, sports, and entertainment growing up was the radio.
You were 9 years old when Orson Welles narrated the radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds, which suggested that an alien invasion was currently in progress.You can still remember where you were when you heard the news about Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. You were 12 years old. You were a teenager during World War II.
If you joined the service, you were either in the Korean or Vietnam War.
If you’re African American, no matter where you lived, you undoubtedly experienced some measure of Jim Crow laws, whether having to sit in the back of the bus, drinking from a different water fountain, sitting in a different section of a restaurant or movie theater, or being harassed for marrying a White woman.You might have chosen to escape such laws by moving to Canada, Bolivia, Israel, anywhere but the United States until things changed.
You were 32 years old when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to successfully orbit the Earth in 1961.You remember where you were when John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.
You might have had to move back to the States in the 1970’s because your wife got sick and the States had the best healthcare.
You might have stayed married for 25 years, before separating from but not divorcing your wife, so she could remain on your health insurance.
You worked a job you hated until you retired at the age of 67.
You reconciled with your estranged adult children at the age of 70.
Now, you’re 84 years old with near perfect health (save for the pacemaker) and 100% of your mental faculties. Your parents, siblings, colleagues and most of your friends are long gone. Of course, you get a Porsche and drive it across country to see your children and grandchildren and this great big country.
If not now, when?