More than once I heard my mother say, "Whenever I woke up during the night there never was a time that Lawrence (my dad) wasn't awake...smoking." He died at age 45, she at 92. First-hand smoke, second-hand smoke; it was everywhere all the time during my growing-up years in our small home in western Washington.
Four things kept my father going as long as he did; music, meat-and-potatatoes, lots of gravey and beer. There was always music in the home, either on the radio or at gatherings of family and neighbors (in the days when neighbors were neighborly). Dad played the guitar, Alita the accordion and Pete the bass fiddle; a homemade affair of odd shape but not-so-odd sound.
Of course, everybody sang...in harmony...the old songs; the ones you used to hear in nursing homes at Saturday sing-alongs: I'm gonna buy a paper doll that I can call my own, a doll that other fellas cannot steal..." or maybe... "Down by the old mill stream, where I first met you..." that one a Mills' Brothers favorite for harmony. The Mills' Brothers were a black family famous for their velvet voices blended in four-parts.
We don't go to the nursing homes anymore. Those who were there are gone. I see my turn coming up like a slow ship over the horizon returning from a long voyage.
People are living longer but I'm not convinced that's necessarily a good thing. My grandmother, who had a heart of Ophiric gold and gave opinions freely, said many times near the end of her ninety-nine tears, "Buddy, it"s not easy to grow old." She knew. I was 60 years old the day she died. My grandson was watching me put down a tile floor in the bathroom; watching his grandfather weep over his now-gone grandmother.
In case you're doing the math (she 99, me 60) Inga was married at 16 and birthed my mother at 17. Two times in succession we were five generations alive. Looking back, I can't see any of them. Looking ahead, I know where it ends...but not yet do I look forward to that sleep that all must enter. For now an afternoon nap is good enough. ec