Letters to Old Bob: #3

2-27-2017

OB,

How’s it hanging, homie? At this point your balls must be about knee level, eh old boy? Just razzin’ ya, dude. Truthfully I feel for you. Already at 46 I’m struggling to accept the slings and arrows of time’s ruthless onslaught. If you’ve actually made it to your mid-eighties, I can only imagine the indignities you confront on a daily basis. I’m reading “Henry Miller – The Last Days”, by Barbara Kraft. She just happened to strike up meaningful friendships with both Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller as each was living out the last year or so of their respective lives. I’m at the point in the Miller book when Henry is starting to decline pretty rapidly, right around his 88th birthday. There’s only about forty or so pages left in the book, and there’s only one way this thing is going to end. Even though I know it’s going to happen, that it already happened in fact, it still has me feeling uneasy. It’s hard to read about the dying of a man who, to me, represents life lived to the absolute fullest. If Henry couldn’t overcome the inevitable, no one can.

I wonder if you remember this, OB, this thing that I do every now again as I’m falling asleep next to my wife. I’ll imagine a future me, a very old man like yourself, who is lying in bed alone wishing more than anything in the world that he could experience just one more night spent holding his dearly departed wife. I then imagine that this old future me is granted the power to travel back in time to experience that one more night of marital bliss. Of course, the precise moment in the “past” to which this old me travels turns out to be the present moment, wherein I am actually and already in bed next to my wife. Suddenly the normally taken-for-granted comfort of spooning takes on a level of intensity that is usually reserved for long-awaited reunions. Pretty weird, huh? But probably not any weirder than writing letters to oneself.

There’s no way for me to know whether or not she is still with you, OB, so I apologize if reading this is painful. I often remind myself that I must commit to the highest level of self-care, so that if one of us must experience the pain of losing the other, I am making it more likely that it would be me. I just can’t bear the thought of my wife having to go through that ordeal. I know, of course, that I have no ultimate control over such things. This drive to survive is hard to reconcile with another tendency of mine, which is to want no part of modern medicine. Left on my own, I think I would be disinclined to prolong my life through artificial means, should I become say, stricken with terminal cancer. I know, I know, OB… It is pure madness to speculate about such things, but I can’t help but be curious about how you are dealing with all the terrible things that come with the territory of oldness. Miller seems to have dealt with it all with the utmost courage and dignity. Still, there’s no sugar-coating it: being really old seems pretty awful.

I’ve got to stay focused on the challenges of 2017, OB. I found out the other day that, due to excessive state budget cuts, I may get laid off from my job in a couple of months. Everybody at work is freaking out, hoping that they won’t find themselves on the chopping block when it comes time for the cleaver to come crashing down. Me, I’m fairy chill about it, given that I don’t really like the job all that much anyway. I do need the money though. I wonder, OB, what your perspective is on such matters at this point in your life. This whole orientation toward the future, the worrying about it, preparing for it, dreading it, aspiring to it, worshipping it. What happens to all that when the future shrinks down to a tiny slice of borrowed time? Once the jig is up and your goose is cooked, where does the mind wander, if it wanders at all?

Maybe I will get an answer from Miller somewhere in the final forty pages.

Until next time,

Young(ish) Bob.

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