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I Might Die Tonight

Spring Flowers

BIG GROVE TOWNSHIP — It’s a little crazy for a 66 year old male to make plans.

It would be easy to “go on the draw” as people I know have done. This framing comes from relatives and friends in Appalachia, where my father’s family came up, who found a way to collect a monthly payment from the government in the post-FDR era. It seems universal in American society to expect the rewards of a life of work and trouble in order to take it easy. Going on the draw has a subtext of relinquishing part of the self-reliance that has come to characterize being American.

There is plenty in society to engage our mind, heart and soul, without adding a layer to it. Social groups abound. Paid and volunteer work create human relationships. There’s shopping, movies and restaurants. Central to many are public libraries — one of the few remaining places with no expectation patrons have money. As much as I’d like to self-identify as a “retiree” and take advantage of all this, the feeling “I want,” as Saul Bellow aptly described it in Henderson the Rain King, nags at me. We may not know what we seek, but are always looking.

Is it hubris? Ecclesiastes instructs.

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. (Ecclesiastes 1, 2-4, King James)

A simple truth is I might die tonight.

I hope not.

When we live our bodies break down from use. We are broken through trauma, physical and emotional. What we need more than treatment for symptoms is healing. Such healing falls to the care of a network of family and friends who look after us when we are broken. Health care is so often more about family and friends, home remedies and rest, than the health care and health insurance which takes an increasing proportion of our income.

Once we accept the underlying fragility of the human condition, many make plans and that’s positive. Our lives have meaning only if we find it in useful, social activity. Once we cease engagement in life and society, the truth that we might die tonight is rendered moot.

We would be dead already.

3 replies on “I Might Die Tonight”

Approaching my 50th Class reunion, as I begin to meet more and more of those who were in my class, I look at them strangely, what in the hell happened? The list of crisis an unwarranted things that happened to me has to pale in comparison to these people who never even left home! Yet here I am, still struggling, still fighting the good fight, still volunteering and carrying on in whatever way I can and these folks are shells of human beings who barely reached across a table to pass the potatoes let alone do something for their community! With my aches and pains, I still get up everyday with a list of things to do, no matter how small, no matter how I feel, I try and do something besides simply take in air and exhale. I’ve never seen so many walking dead! Yes I am slower than I once was, but attitude speaks louder than what I am seeing here in Monticello, Iowa. Those in my class that died and have been dead for quiet a number of years from all sorts of ailments that cut them down well before they reached retirement get a pass, but those who committed suicide, drank themselves to death, or are simply living the life of “what’s in it for me” are finding the answer is “not much” if you don’t show much concern for the other guy who you always wanted to take from. People who think they have been mistreated, hold a grudge that they didn’t get to do what they wanted to do in life, and bitch about those who did because they were self motivated to accomplish their goals, have one foot in the grave and are digging it deeper every day. Your hate is going to drag you down and swallow you! Try putting your feet into someone’s moccasins that you think is better than you and then you will find a person who has gone through just as much hell as you but persisted and if they are in better physical shape it is probably because they keep on doing something for others and do it with a smile on their face and don’t live there lives like it is already over.


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