Old people have Big Events. You know, when you and your siblings get together to discuss what to do about mom or dad because they’ve taken a turn for the worse. Someone wonders out loud how you ended up there. One of you reflects back and says: “Yeah, dad just wasn't the same after his (heart attack/hip fracture/hunting accident/fill-in-the-blank).
Your Big Event is supposed to be your Wake Up Call.
My mother’s Big Event was a brain aneurism at 57. That killed her instantly so it doesn’t really count. My father’s Big Event was a stroke when he was 62 although he seemed to bounce right back from that. His brush with death didn’t seem to do much, including change his lifestyle or his intake of organ meat. He refused to take any meds. He never took up jogging or tennis. His second stroke was a couple years later. That started the real decline. It was a slow one: 17 years. He went to physical therapy for about two months, refused speech therapy, then quit. He did absolutely nothing in that time to stay healthy. He actually went out of his way to do more unhealthy things: he started smoking cigarettes again.
So where am I in all this, 3 and ½ years after my Big Event?
The head of cardiology at the hospital came by the day before my bypass to cheer me up. She told me my operation could “last me” 20 years! Like that was a long time. Like any finite number was good news somehow but putting a solid number on it, and such a low one--- 20 years ---sounded to me like she said a month. (She could seriously use some help with her bedside manner.)
The neighbor down the street had his Big Event in the 1970s somewhere. He and his wife were part of my father-in-law’s bunch of “couple friends.” You know, that suburban friendship thing where married couples hang out together, drink and smoke at each other’s tract houses, and go to Cancun en masse. The neighbor was the first of the couples bunch to have a Big Event. He was in his mid-50s at the time and he’s still walking around the block, getting exercise, with his wife. He started taking care of himself, doing like his doctor told him. Everyone else from their couple friend bunch, including my mother- and father-in-law, is dead.
So maybe a Wake Up Call is a good thing, so long as you don’t hit the snooze button…