Caution: The following post contains offensive (to other people, not me) profanity. You've been warned!
When we were in Ohio last summer, my Mom was telling me about someone she knew who had died recently.
"He was so young," she said.
"Really?" I asked. "How old was he?"
I was a little taken aback. Is 77 considered young these days? My Mom turns 70 this year (sorry to out you, Mom), so maybe when you're 70, 77 seems young. Fifty is looking pretty young to me right now, so I probably just answered my own question right there.
All of my grandparents have lived into their 80s and 90s. In fact, my Grandpa is still vibrantly alive and kicking and running the family farm at 96. So I guess compared to that, 77 is young.
But let's face it, the average life expectancy for a United States citizen is 78.2--for men it's 75.6 and women it's 80.5. And I figure if I make it anywhere into my later years, that's pretty darn fortunate.
So the other day, I was at my sister's and we had a similar conversation. A neighbor's mother died last week. She was young. How young? 77. A weird coincidence, I know.
I kind of rolled my eyes and began my diatribe again. Seventy-seven isn't young. That 77-year-old person got to graduate high school, go to college, get a job, have kids, see their kids grow up and have kids, enjoy their grandkids for awhile, see the world if it was financially feasible, etc. 77 isn't young. 77 is lucky. Yes, in my family, dying at 77 would be young (with one notable exception), but I don't count on having that kind of luck for one second.
Tara told me I was heartless because I wasn't overly sympathic.
She also said that it's relative. Seriously? Seventy-seven seems old to me regardless of how old my Grandpa is or how young Finn was when he got cancer. Nearly eight decades to live life. I'm guessing a lot of people would kill for the opportunity to merely make it to that age.
Yes, it's sad that this 77-year-old grandmother died. It's sad when anyone dies. I'll be crazy sad when my Grandpa dies. If I'm around to see it, but I'm starting to wonder if he'll outlive me. But my point here is that while it's sad, it hardly seems unexpected at this point. Basically, to me, anything past the average life expectancy is gravy. You could, in theory, argue that according to statistics, this grandma had 3 1/2 more years before her time ran out, but I don't want to fight with myself.
So one of the things Tara asked me was, "Are YOU going to be ready to die in 35 years?" Frankly, if the next 35 years contain trauma like the last 6 years have had, I just might be. I don't mean to be flip, it's just how I feel. My Grandma Moffitt wasn't afraid to grow old and die and I try to hang onto that sense of peace she always had. She had lived a lot, loved a lot and maybe you just get tired at the end and you're at peace with going. What happens if you're not tired at the end? If you're just in the "prime" of your life at 77? Well, it's not like we get to choose. When your number's up, it's up, right?
Then Tara asked me if I was ready to have our parents die. Of course not! I don't think you're ever "ready" for that (and besides, what if I'd answered, yes? I'd be written out of the will like that! So if I am ready, I'm keeping mum!). It will never be enough time no matter when they/I go. There will always be one more conversation I would have wished I'd had. One more thing I'd wished I'd done with or for them. The time will never be right. But it's going to happen whether I want it to or not.
Has Finn's cancer jaded me? I don't know. Probably. Maybe. Heck, I don't know how I would answer "is 77 young" if we hadn't seen so many kids suffer. Because in the fucked up world of pediatric cancer, 77 is old. Crazy old. There are no high school graduations when you die at 7. Or 5. Or 2. Or 13. No college, no travel, no job, no wedding, no kids, no grandkids. Zip. That is dying before you even get to experience the "prime." And that, my friends, is shitty.
I would really wonder about someone who was 77, knew they were dying, and said, "But I'm too young to die." But a 7-year-old? Has every right in the world to say it.
And so I have asked myself, what is the cut off age? What is that magic number where you can say you've lived long enough for it to not be unfair or "too young" when you die? Is it when your kids are all over 18? Although, if that were the case, everyone would emulate Charlie Chaplin and wait to have kids until they were 75. And men would outlive women for a change.
As usual, I don't have the answer. I hate it when that happens. What I do know: Growing old isn't a right. Unfortunately. Get off your ass and live right now.
So what do you think? Am I heartless? I'm so curious if I'm a total whack-a-doo and don't know it. Although I have long suspected. . .