I’m almost old. Sixty-one next month. But old enough for the wear to do more than show. It’s performing now. The trick to longevity at this point is to dodge the complete failure of any one of many systems that are all wearing down. Aging is fatal, and the number of single points of failure is not small. Combined ones multiply that number.
It seems like ten years ago that I was thirty. Life is short at its longest, and it goes fast, especially if you’re having fun.
Which brings me to my point. Almost.
It’s a matter of genetic luck that I’m not a drinker. A little beer and wine, but that’s about all my body can take before it says No More. Been that way since I was young. Drugs have also always been unpleasant for me. Smoking didn’t appeal in any case, but my father’s addiction to it — and the discomfort it caused the rest of us, for example when sharing a room or riding in a car — made me determined never to do it. And all those are reasons I’m alive today.
The other people in this ward, the one I’ll leave after I scarf one last free meal — don’t look so good. It’s a cardiac ward. When I walk past the nurses’ station I look at the screen of EKGs etching their green pulsed lines, one for each patient. None look good, or they wouldn’t be here. Alarms go off all the time. The patients look terrible. Even if they’re not old, they look it. One more reason I want to get out of here is to stop hogging a room that a needy patient could fill.
So I was talking to one of the nurses. What brought most of these patients here? Smoking and drinking, was the short answer. Reminded me of what a doctor friend told me many years ago. “Without tobacco and alcohol, you could close half the hospitals.”
We can’t get rid of stuff that’ll kill us in the long run. But we can choose not to indulge them.
This last week a lot of people have told me that stuff I say is important to them. Sometimes I’m called “influential”. If I can influence one young person to quit smoking or drinking heavily — for the duration — I’ll be happy.
If you’re lucky you’ll all be as old as the folks here some day. And if you’re smart, chances are you won’t be laying in a place like this.
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