Adults worry about the damnedest stuff, as if worrying could change anything. It’s the reason people wake up at 5 in the morning wondering about their 401K or if their child is going to die or their business fail. It’s the same dark pondering that causes middle-aged executives to topple off Stair-Masters dead as doornails; hearts exploded by angst, hard bodies corrupted by endless nights of mulling the vast possibilities for failure.
Our bodies can only endure so much. Only so many cheeseburgers, so many cigarettes, so many Cuba Libres, greasy enchiladas and steaming plates of Eggs Benedict. Only so much fun or sex or excitement or feeling. Too much and… pop. So we certainly don’t need an extra supply of unnecessary dread and worry . We’re only human after all, though some are stronger and luckier than others.
My grandfather, for instance, kept right on smiling and feeling and eating until he was 88. Then, one night, his odometer flipped over, all zeros, and he died. Probably dreaming of breakfast. Less sturdy individuals see the zeros come up much, much sooner. Flying through the windshield or peering up at the receding surface of the lake or just putting marmalade on toast. There they are. Zeros. That’s it pal. You’re out of here. Should have seen it coming.
88 is something to aspire to. There’s a symmetry there: double infinity symbols standing on end. Together. Side by side. One reason my grandfather lasted so long and so well is that he never forgot the pleasures of life. Some people (especially my grandmother) say this was his major character flaw as well. But he had the last laugh, attending her funeral years later with the ex-town hooker (my other grandmother) on his arm and a spanking new yellow Buick convertible parked out front, engine still ticking from the heat. He was luckier than she. He was luckier than most. He had the powerful organs, the strong glands, the resilient body. He had the innate and cleansing ability to not sweat much of anything. Anything. He smoked Lucky’s and didn’t get cancer. He drank like an Indian on holiday and still had a healthy liver. He had eight decades and eight years of fried chicken and fried okra and fried tomatoes and fried just about anything you can think of to fry and yet, on the night of his death, possessed arteries as clean as the barrels of a new shotgun. He walked away from the car wrecks. He wasn’t home when the house burned. While others were falling like leaves in a summer storm he was having just a little bit more gravy and another scotch please, looking up at the ceiling and braying like a mule at an old joke he’d just told for the 13th time. He knew, even late in life, how good mud feels squashing up between your toes; how great warm corn husks smell fresh from the field; how comfortable a woman’s bare hip can be on a rainy afternoon.
He was lucky. Damned lucky, and good luck is the most astonishing and incredible gift you can have. “Your MRI is back and everything looks OK” (even though you’ve sucked down two packs a day for 35 years, you moron) or “Good thing this didn’t break on the highway” (and turned your whole car into a careening fireball) or “Just a few small lacerations, but she’s fine” (Why would you let a ten-year old on a motorbike?). So every day for most of us is like a mini-lottery. Win or lose? Are you going to perish today under the wheels of a tractor trailer full of frozen chickens? Just one moment while the Lord scratches off the silver coating to see…. Bingo! No drumsticks! You’re a winner! You get more years! If you’re born lucky you get so used to it (it’s as easy as falling off a log) that you actually forget all about it. In fact, you begin to expect it, even count on it. Until that one last day when the ping-pong balls are blown up the plastic tubes and the number comes up 88 or 64 or 49 and BANG! You’re a goner. Dead. Vapor. Dust.
So don’t worry. It will happen.