I am the youngest person living at my apartment complex. We are an age-restricted location where you must be at least 55 years old to live here. I moved in on my birthday, so by definition I am the youngest person (for me to reach the average age I need to live here about another 30 years, give or take a couple). It is a nice, quiet place to live. There are weekly and monthly events that the occupants can take part in, from a coffee klatch on Tuesday mornings to (age appropriate) exercise workouts on Friday before noon. It’s pretty much like living in any other apartment except there are fewer noisy parties and ambulances visit considerably more often.
One activity that occurs with considerable regularity is the discussion of names in the obituary columns of the local paper. Since many (perhaps most) of the residents have lived in the community 30 to 70 years (or more), they recognize many of the names listed in the paper. I am an import, so I am clueless about the locals and the ongoing change in the demographics of the area, but I am not clueless about the passing of time. My awareness comes from the national news broadcasts each weeknight.
Just about each week there is a brief reference to the death of someone reasonably famous on the nightly news, along with a brief description of the person’s life or reason for fame. The most recent was the passing of Robert Schuller, the tel-evangelist. I am not disturbed or affected by his death apart from the recognition of the name and some of his history. For much of my life, the obits named on the programs were just noise. Some might recognize them, but no one in my circle of influence (well, maybe mom and dad, but you get what I mean). With my advancing years, I find the names of the dead to be more recognizable than before.
A long time ago, I was presented with the “habit” most people do when faced with the death of someone, comparing the dearly departed’s age with my own (thus seeing how many years I might have “left”). Recently (last decade or so) the result of this formula is depressing if not outright terrifying. Some of the numbers have negative signs before them, suggesting the victim (obviously) died several decades before their time. That the difference in our ages is progressively getting smaller each passing day is a sobering reminder my plan to see the American Tri-centennial is less likely than when I watched the Bi-centennial from the deck of my ship (one of the national broadcast locations was the flight deck of the USS Constellation, CVA-64, where I served as a TV repairman).
Occasionally (increasingly frequently, sadly enough) I am made aware of the passing of someone I had the opportunity to know personally. The names on the school reunion lists shrinks over time, and while I do not attend, I am still aware of the shrinkage. I have fewer friends and relatives today than a dozen years ago and will be astonished to find the same number a dozen years hence. It is just a fact of life, even with the amazing advances in medicine and technology this millennium. They may be moving the finish line further from the start, but it is apparent it is not advancing quickly or far enough.
I remember when my son was too small (read: young) to go on some of the rides at the fair. Eventually he grew tall enough, and the whole world was opened to him. Now it is his daughter that has the sign restrictions to deal with. And so on.
When I meet with the folk for our Tuesday coffee, I am keenly aware of the passing of time. All are widowed (only a single couple still resides here, and I think they are the oldest residents here) and many are the last family members still above ground, having outlived both spouses and siblings. It gets really hard around the major holidays, to recognize that we neighbors are the only people in the world left to care. A few have older children (most older than I am) that might visit or call, but the greater share of the branches in the forest of lives living here have few leaves left on them. And it’s late autumn, with winter fast approaching.
I had the opportunity to share a nearly 10 hour car trip with a couple from my church this week, traveling to and from Chicago to pickup the wife from a hospital there (she suffers from debilitating migraine headaches and spent over a week in-patient trying to bring relief to her condition). As a result, I spent the next day in bed from the pain of riding in a foreign car (not my own, so not sized to fit well) and being confined for so long a time. It was totally worth it to see the interaction of the couple upon reuniting, and when she came home to her daughter. I would do it again. And again. And again, as needed, to keep connections linked.
Which reminds me… I need to take a trip to see my family and link local connections, too. Guess I’ll buy a ticket and get in line.
I could use a hug anyway.
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