I accomplished a major milestone in my life Friday that required no effort. All I had to was wake up Saturday morning. I guess that’s not really true. A healthy diet, exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation, never smoking, and never taking drugs probably has a lot to do with it. One thing that had little to do with it was heredity!
By waking up Saturday morning, I made it to 47 years, 8 months, and 24 days on Earth. That’s not bad for a premature baby born in October 1964 that dropped to three pounds and wasn’t expected to live. After six weeks in the hospital, I was allowed to go home in time for my first Christmas. (Clearly, mortality is on my mind!)
While I’m very happy to be alive, accomplish more in life, and to spend it with my beautiful family, one thing you’ll never hear me say is “If I live past 47, I’ll live to 100”.
My mother, Dessie, said that as a young woman. She was referring to the fact that her mother, Reba, died in the summer of 1963 at the age of 48. My mother was just 20 years old and it was almost a year before she married my father. My mother thought if she made it to 48, she’d live forever.
My mother not only shared a close resemblance to her mother, but both were also overweight and diabetic. And, when the time came for my mother, November 7, 1990, they both ended up dying of a heart attack. My mother lived 47 years, 8 months, and 23 days.
Luckily, for me, my last physical showed me in great health. Actually, I’m healthier than more than 90% of Americans. Now that I’m approaching 48 years old, I hope my next physical, in October, shows that I still have a long life ahead of me, barring no accidents or being gunned down (since my doctor is in Chicago)!
If you believe that heredity plays a big role in how long we live, I’m more concerned about my sister, Tammy, outliving my mother. As she approaches 46 this September, she’s overweight, she’s had two heart attacks, and she hasn’t stopped smoking. That despite the fact that her doctor last December told her that he almost lost her and the next time he might be as lucky if she didn’t give up smoking.
I, on the other hand, am more concerned with the genes that my father and grandfather have given me. My grandfather, John Peoples, died in 1978, at the age of 72 of colon cancer. In February 1987, my father, Hollie, died of brain cancer. He was only 55.
We never know when our time will come or how we’ll meet our maker. I know that I’ll do my best to live life to the fullest and I’ll try to make a difference in the lives of my husband, my daughter, my sister, “Mom” Betty, my friends, and my community.
If heredity has more to do with it than statistic averages (in America, men live an average of 75.6 years and women 80.8 years), I’d better see Hawaii, Alaska, Switzerland, Scandinavia, New Zealand, and Israel sooner rather than later.
If I live to 75.6, I have almost 30 years and that will give me time to slow down and enjoy life instead of always planning.
As youngsters (Anthony, 5, and Tammy, 3) in this 1969 photograph, my sister and I knew nothing about the hardships that adults faced in life with work, health, and relationships. Now that we do, I hope that we both outlive our parents. As for my sister, I hope her kids learn to appreciate her more and they don’t find out what it’s like to lose your mother when she’s in her 40s and you’re only in your 20s, like we did.
When I think of growing old and outliving everyone, I think of Bette Midler’s character, Dixie Leonard, in the 1991 movie, “For The Boys”. I saw this movie on opening weekend, almost one year after my mother died and one line stuck with me over the past 21 years.
Dixie’s husband died in World War II and her only son, Christopher, died in the Vietnam War. Near the end of the movie, as a very old woman, Dixie told a young production assistant about her life as he was trying to get her to an awards show. She said, “The thing you wanna avoid is outlasting everybody. Can you remember that?”
I survived Friday and Saturday and I’m looking forward to a long, fulfilling life, and I will strive harder to make everyday count.
So, to Miss ABBA, my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and Miss Keshia (my chow chow), I dedicate this Bette Midler remake of the Beatles’ “In My Life”. I’ll see you again one day. I just hope it isn’t one day too soon!