Today was my father’s 85th birthday. We went out for a lovely dinner, just the four of us. It was probably the first birthday of his — or any of ours — that was celebrated only by our nuclear family: no husbands, no boyfriends, no relatives, no kids. I kinda liked it. It felt like a long time ago, which I guess can be a good thing, especially if you’re 85. Unfortunately my dad doesn’t have much short-term memory anymore so it probably would have been tough for him to appreciate our “return to our roots” in relation to recent celebrations. He just seemed happy to be out and eating and with us. He was especially happy with his “chocolate tastings;” Budski always loves a good dessert.
Whenever anyone asks my dad how he’s doing, he says, “Oh, sure’s to be able to sit up and take nourishment.” I don’t even know what that means. He’s also always held that “Getting old ain’t for sissies,” a paraphrase of Bette Davis’s quote. And in reference to old age, he quips that “It’s better than the alternative” — another borrowed quote, this time Maurice Chevalier’s — the alternative being death. I’m not so sure.
Yes, he appears to experience pleasure, mostly when he’s eating. He adores their little dog and lavishes her with affection. He’s quick to laugh and can answer all the questions on Jeopardy. But he spends most of his time sleeping. When we got out for dinner he asks if we’ve ordered after we’ve ordered and asks if he’s eaten after he’s eaten. It doesn’t seem like much of a life.
My friends and I talk about getting old and what we’ll do if things “get bad.” Suicide pacts only work if you still possess the mental acuity to off yourself. Or to even remember you wanted to.
I don’t know if I want to live to be 85. I don’t have a 401k or any other retirement plan to speak of. I don’t have kids who’ll keep me company or a spouse to to grow old with. I’m not sure I care, really. But I will need someone to let me know that it’s bad…if it gets bad and I’m not aware of it myself. I sure hope one of my friends will tell me. And help out with my exit plan if need be.
There’s always the chance I’ll be healthy and aware in my old age. Perhaps I’ll be out for dinner with my sister and her kids — and maybe their kids — on my 85th birthday, happy to be out and eating and with them. Maybe I’ll even order a chocolate treat. If I can remember!