A Day in the Life, My Way

I went to a wake today... A young friend had just passed away...

Wow, this was a first for me. Not a funeral. I've been to way too many to count on my digits: great grandfather, great grandmother, grandfather, grandmother, (mom-side) grandfather, three granduncles, one grandaunt, my father, my grandfather-in-law, my father-in-law, my uncle-in-law, two friends of my dad's, two fathers of my cousins's wives, father of my wife's ex-boyfriend (don't ask). And that doesn't count the ones I could have attended but was either too young or not aware: my great great grandmother, two grandaunts, granduncle, a brother, and a number of my great-grandmother's siblings. No, death unfortunately is not new to me.

What is new to me is that this is the first of someone who was basically my own age (my brother doesn't count since he was still-born). In fact, he was a bit younger than I am. He had a heart attack and, while not in the best of health and physicality, he gave no sign that anything was wrong either.

Lucky for me, my body has been very very good to me. Low blood pressure. Low "bad" cholesterol, high "good" cholesterol, I love the pieces of fat on my steaks and sometimes bum them off of my wife as well (who hates me because she has to watch her fat intake). I've been able to eat anything and not gain weight (at least until recently) without my wife also being pregnant with one of our children (I gained 15 pounds for each of my children; and we know she's not pregnant). I'm skinny but athletic enough to play most sports well enough to be OK or good.

However, a thought that haunted my mom similarly haunts me. Her mom, my grandmother, died when she was only 42 (way before even my mom and dad meeting) and my mom dreaded reaching her 42nd birthday. Likewise, my dad passed when he was 45 years old, almost 46, and I am approaching that (not only do I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I can see sides of the end of the tunnel as well). And I think about it, what if it happens to me too.

Partly because it came so suddenly for him, dying less than a year after getting sick the first time. Partly because I wonder if I picked it up from him or from my travels, it is something that can stay dormant in your body for years. Partly because my great grandfather and his son, my grandfather, both had debilitating strokes, though at least in their 60's or 70's so I still have some time. Partly because my mom who has no bad habits to speak of except of always being a mother has had three bad bouts with breast cancer, each treatment debilitating her more and more, each almost exactly 5 years apart - I was dreading the 15 year mark but she passed that with flying colors (knock on wood) and it is year 19 now.

Partly because I was unexpectedly close to being admitted to the hospital a few years back because a doctor prescribed me Augmentum for sinusitis without warning me (don't read rest of sentence if squemish) that it might cause internal bleeding in my intestines. I bled out so much that they needed to stick me and re-hydrate me with one of those bag of sucrose saline bags. And I had to go through a colonoscopy procedure to make sure I was OK, that it was only the Augmentum and not something worse. Partly because I worry about how my family will survive without me; I know they will but it won't be pleasant, it wasn't for me.

After the first few deaths (this reminds me of that alt-song, "These are people who have died," or something like that for the title), I thought maybe it would make me live life a little different, make me appreciate it more, make me not take friends and family less for granted (not that I was ever that bad in either case, I've been very appreciative of my life and family), but, you know, really feel it deep, like those people who cheat death somehow or "saw the light" but didn't walk towards it, having a near-death experience, then live their lives differently.

And not that death scares me. While I want to live as long as this bag of bones will allow me (and longer), it is not because I dread dying. I actually look forward to the death process for a number of reasons. One, is there the floating people say there is. Do old friends and family actually come to guide you in. Is there really a light. Is there a god. What's the meaning of life, really, not just my theory. Etc.

However, I love life too much to satisfy my curiosity about death. To me, it is amazing what we humans have done just in the time since my great grandfather was born in the late 19th century. Flying, mass-produced cars, radio, records and now CDs, movies, TV, DVD, computers, all the medical advances, all the neat gadgets, just to name a few. I want to see what comes next and to experience that. I look forward to that.

Now all I have to do is to live, live long and prosper ('cause Social Security certainly ain't going to help me).


Heeere's Johnny withdrawal

It is kind of strange to me, being affected so much by Johnny Carson's passing. It didn't really hit me at first but, over time, I find myself being more and more affected. To contrast, I am a big Beatles fan but George's passing didn't really hit me as hard, though that might have been because I knew he was in poor health for a number of years and kind of expected it, whereas Johnny was quiet about his ailments and so it was a shock to see the announcement. Nonetheless, it has affected me more than George's passing.

I guess it is a testament to how much a part of our lives Johnny Carson was for us Baby Boomers. I was aware of him as early as the late 1960's already, though I was less than 10, and started watching him regularly once I entered my mid-teens, when I was allowed to control when I went to bed. Then I basically watched him from the mid-70's until his retirement. He was a constant in all our lives and, for many of us, we did not know TV without Johnny Carson around to entertain us before we went to sleep.

Lots of the obits noted the dichotomy he presented to the audience: honest, wholesome, middle of the road and yet he could get away with telling Dolly Parton, "I would give a whole year's salary to look under your blouse." (Most American males at that time would have wanted "the full monty" for a whole year's salary but that probably would have brought outrage from some quarters...) He could leer with the best of them and he had his string of blonde "bimbo" types that accompanied him in the Mighty Carson Arts Players.

I think that's probably what drew most of us to connect with him: he looked and acted like one of us, one of the regular people. If a joke failed, he would just chalk it up and laugh it off, not get mad at us for not "getting it." Most of his jokes voiced what most of us have thought at one time or another about that topic. And while there are the girls, he presented - appropriately for that time - a PG version of sex appeal that showed us that he knew what most of us were thinking about and, while not giving us all the goods, gave us a wink or a look to remind us that he was one of us.

A note on Johnny Carson's passing

Growing up, Johnny Carson was a figure who loomed large in my life and the lives of millions of people. As he liked to joke about it, there were a lot of people going to sleep with him. He didn't always hit the homeruns - though he had plenty of those - but there were plenty of singles and doubles and there's no shame in that.

What's amazing is his steadiness and consistency over the years. I regret never making it down to LA for a taping. Luckily, I can get my Johnny fix via DVDs and I'm sure that - whatever your beliefs are in an afterlife - he is probably hearing millions of "Heeere's Johnny!" everywhere his spirit goes.

I am glad that, after all the jokes about his previous failed marriages, he appears to have been happily married in his final years and had a good retirement. He will be missed.

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