The four-score, I think, are achievable. The ten ? I’m not so sure. I have just entered my 80th year and it looks as though my cardiac condition, the cramps in my legs, my blood-circulation, occasional bronchitis and my recently diagnosed Pseudo Rhizomelic Polyarthritis, which the specialist was afraid was in fact Polymyalgia Rheumatica which leads to osteroporosis and, he shocked me by saying, possibly blindness, will not do me in for a while yet. Mind you, a truck full of vinegar could run me over tomorrow. So, “omnibus paribus” (the truck could be a Paris bus) I may last a little longer than my old schoolmate Michael who just died at 80, “after a long illness” (I guess that’s code for cancer). This extraordinary man who left school at fourteen became not only a multimillionaire but Mayor of “The Shire” (Sydneysiders know there’s only one worth talking about), a nationally decorated business leader and philanthropist, and is the only one of my Marist Brothers Kogarah mates whom I mention by name (apart from the dropout scalawags Mervyn and Billy) in my book, “From Illusions to Illumination”, page 15, as you can read in Chapter One reprinted in this Blog (September 28, 2015). (P.S. June, 2017 : I forgot to mention another classmate, Billy Wade, also mentioned in that chapter. He became a Marist Brother, Brother Christopher, and has just been convicted of pederasty and is waiting for sentencing in September !)
Next week I have to “say a few words” at the memorial service in the local cemetery for my sister-in-law, a victim of peritonitis at age 69. A year ago I lost my last brother, Jim, aged 83, and in France, Australia and the U.S. friends’ obituaries are appearing with alarming frequency. Looks like my time is about up.
So for my 79th birthday I wrote a limerick-poem for my five grandchildren, aged 5 to 15. This is a revised, more realistic version of the “poem” I wrote 15 years ago, a rewriting of a song by Paul McCartney I entitled “Now I’m 64”. It’s in my book (pp.115-116) but since you don’t have the book, here it is :
“When I look back to where I’ve come from,
I’m surprised to see
My life is divided into four sixteens;
I’ve no idea what all this means.
I don’t plan to die
Until I’m twice as old.
At least I will try.
When I look forward, sixty-four more,
I feel like a kid,
So much fun to be had, so much life to live,
To travel, write, grow and to give
Any help that I can to loved ones.
I can’t ask for more.
Life is just starting, as I look ahead,
Now I’m sixty-four.”
The latest doggerel is, like my life-expectation, somewhat shorter :
“Now I’m seventy-nine.
I’m old but feeling fine.
I hope your life is long,
Full of joy, full of song,
Happy as has been mine.”
Here Up Over, the Autumn of my years has turned into Winter, and I may not see too many more of them. But I meant what I wrote about having had a happy life. My life at present still is, and if I’m careful crossing the street and driving on the autoroute, if I keep away from the nicotine I inhaled for twenty-five years before I gave up smoking thirty years ago, and the drugs I have never taken, stay on the wagon I’ve been on for the last six, watch the salt and sugar intake and cut back on my péché-mignon, apple tarts, I may be around for a while yet, though I see no point in surviving as a vegetable or as a physically or mentally handicapped invalid making life miserable for myself and a burden for loved ones.
Whenever “The End” appears on my screen, I will always be grateful to all my family members and friends who have made my life so fulfilling, and to the others who have made it so . . . interesting. I have lived as an atheist for the last forty years and, thank God, will die one.