My daughter called today to wish me a happy 58th birthday, though she said she wasn't exactly sure if that was the right number. I told her it wasn't, and she did the audible equivalent of a shrug, as if to say "It's just a number." Which, of course, is true. It's like the odometer on a car: it can tell you how far you've been, but it doesn't say where you've been, and it doesn't at all address the question of where you're going.
Where I've been, for the last year, is mostly where I've stayed for most of the last decade. Tomorrow I'll have completed nine years at the palatial estate at Surlywood. This matters to me because I've never before had the same address for nine years. (The previous record was a little over six.) And this matters to me because I hate to move and would rather not do it ever again if I can possibly avoid it. To some extent, the property-tax system here encourages staying in one spot: were I to buy another house, I'd lose my existing homestead exemption for a year, not a considerable sum, but perhaps enough to tilt the balance for some folks. The house itself is now going on seventy; it could use a fresh coat of paint, and some of the concrete, in the driveway and along the walk, is cracking a bit, but this is probably better condition than I'm in.
I admit to having done something of an about-face since 2008, when I wondered if I was becoming, um, less weepy. I attribute this to putting less effort into avoiding circumstances and incidents that might go Full Lachrymal at any moment. Stoicism, I suspect, can only go so far. And much as I'd like to hide behind a pair of Roy Orbison-style shades, I'm afraid that I can't pull off that degree of perceived detachment. (And you can't tell me that Roy just breezed through those semi-operatic wails purely as a stylistic gesture. Then again, I've played "Running Scared" several hundred times in fifty years.)
The next step beyond avoiding the tearful, as you might have guessed, is wallowing in it. All things considered, this is something I'd rather not do. But sometimes there's no way around it, although I'm willing to concede that "sweat ... does a passable, if not convincing, job of concealing tears." And it occurs to me that it's probably better to get this sort of thing out of my system now, while it's still under some small measure of control, than to wait until The End Is Near and it balloons to full-fledged hysteria.
Of course, if I really want full-fledged hysteria, I can always focus on The Nearness Of The End. I'm clearly on the downhill slope, unless you can somehow persuade me that I'm going to live to 120, which strikes me as highly unlikely. I remind myself now and again that I have predicted my imminent demise several times, at ages ranging from 18 to 47, and I have been wrong every time. Absent any unsubtle reminders from the body, I have no reason to think my ability to nail down this particular date has in any way improved. And I can't said for certain what, if anything, happens after that date, though I admit to a preference.
And sometime tomorrow, the odometer on the car will roll past 140,000 miles, which means well, nothing really, except that the 150k service ($900 or so) is that much nearer. Judgment of a sort comes for us all, it seems.
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Copyright © 2012 by Charles G. Hill