Saturday, January 26, 2013

Going Out in a Rented Coffin ... a poem

If I were a poet, this is what I’d write as a way to explain my exit....

This was drafted after investigating the business of cremation. Apparently part of the usual practice is for the funeral/cremation service to include a dressy, temporary coffin. No reason to purchase such an item only to then supply the heat. Typically, one merely 'rents' the coffin, which, following any memorial service, is set aside for the next 'guest'. With that in mind, this bit of doggerel was created.

(this is not a true statement ... there are laws in place limiting any coffin or casket to being used once and one time only. However that fact doesn't fit my idea of 'going out in a rented coffin.' So, understand, like so much of my scribbling, I'm just having fun here.)

(Key: McGuffi⃰  ⃰ : an event in a film that drives the plot (coined by Alfred Hitchcock)
Tiffin  ⃰ : (in India) a light meal

Now, on with the show!

Going out in a rented coffin...

Some say death is just another part of living, a part of nature,
Others are sure it’s a necessary step toward heaven.
I’ve long thought it was likely to be the fires of Hell in my future.
And now I’m headed into the fiery blaze in a rented coffin.

They tried to sell me on the solid wood, silver handled box
All I wanted was to make the trip without puffin.
Not dressed in a suit and tie, shoes not needed, not even sox.
Just lay me out, comb my beard, looking good in a rented coffin.

A wonderful life does come to an end, no complaints, oh, my friends
The years went by, not staying too tight to the McGuffin ⃰  ⃰  ,
I did things happily, knowing it all, sooner or later, would come to an end.
Keeping it simple, no fuss and no stress, going out in a rented coffin.

The bestest part, of all those years, that which made me oh, so proud,
Was, my daughter, so grown up after the good years as an elfin.
The family she brought, Peter and Becky so cute; Ryan at times, loud,
Now all gathered round, to see me go out, there in my rented coffin.

T’was a good life, no question about that, wouldn’t change a thing,
Lots of good times, many a good meal, even when it was but a tiffin ⃰  .
Looking back, remembering with a smile, makes me want to sing,
But no, that joy is no longer mine, not now, not in my rented coffin.

So take the ashes, once the fire is done
Down to the water, spread me out, and be laughin’
Know it was a full life, full of love and fun.
I made my escape just as I wanted, there in my rented coffin.


Monday, September 3, 2012

It's been a while since I visited this blog ... but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about a few things. Take for instance, flies...

Do you think a housefly 

can have a personality?

I was just wondering, do you think a housefly can have a personality? Is that at least likely?

Well, I can almost hear you chuckling and asking what I’ve been drinking, but think about it. Let me explain. There I was, standing at the kitchen sink washing up the breakfast dishes, my hands in water that was a tad bit too hot to be comfortable, when the carrying on of a couple flies caught my attention.

My view when standing at the sink is of the back paddock. Back in the old country we’d call it a pasture but down here it’s called a paddock. I don’t know why. The ewe owned by my next door neighbours, Robert and Megan, lambed a while back and the little woolly fur ball wasn’t giving up on suckling. Robert said it would naturally, as the mama sheep’s milk dried up. Well that didn’t happen.

Megan had named the lamb, calling it Molly, I think, and Molly couldn’t get enough of Mama’s milk. Poor old Mama didn’t seem to care but as Molly grew it got too big to fit under Mama to get at the teat. Soon the knees of Molly’s front legs showed signs of wear as the little idiot would kneel to get under Mama’s udder. Something had to be done to help with the weaning. That’s where my back paddock came into play.

Robert asked if he fenced off a section of that area he could put Molly back there, separating the getting-bigger every day beast from Mama Sheep. That sounded good to me. Molly could eat down the grass, saving me from having to run the mower over it so often. So one fine morning it was done. And the separation lasted about three hours.

It was the bleating going on by both Mama and Molly that got to Megan. I ignored it thinking that sooner or later they’d both get over it and that would be it. Well, Megan said something to Robert and an opening was cut in the wire fence between the two pastures. Uh, paddocks.

Even that was alright as far as I was concerned. Whenever I was standing at the sink doing up the dishes I could watch mother and child as they chewed up the grass. They didn’t bother the chickens and it gave me some entertainment while having my hands in water that was too hot. A bad habit of mine, using water that is just off the boil.

Watching the sheeps and the chickens I discovered that both had their own personality. I had noticed early on that the hens each went about doing their scratching and pecking in their own way. The white hen would scratch here and there a while, then run like mad over to another spot to take it up again. One of the brownies didn’t pay much attention but the light brown one would be right behind the white one. Silly birds.

The sheep was Robert’s part of the deal, he had butchering plans for Molly. Megan, on the other hand took care of the chickens and turkeys that were being raised on their property. My hens were a gift from Megan. It was the brown one that attracted one of Megan’s roosters. For a few days the long-tailed crowing bird would hang around Brownie. I only saw him mount the hen once and then it happened so fast I almost missed it. Brownie didn’t pay any attention. Not really. Just waited out the five second attack on her virtue and then went back to scratching and pecking. Being a male he just puffed up his chest and crowed, letting the world know how great he was.

For the next week or so the rooster stayed close to his lady love, kind of overly protective. The other hens didn’t pay any attention to him nor did he to them. Then one day he didn’t show up and I heard him over across the way crowing his head off.

Probably back servicing his harem over there.

Now I’m explaining all this to show why I think it is possible that even a common fly could have a personality. If sheep can, as dumb as they are, and chickens do, why not flies?

Doing the dishes and watching two of these beasties flit around, buzzing and going from one side of the window to the other, I noticed a difference in them. Now these aren’t really your common housefly. Nope. We’re in farm country. These are the big, black and dark green monster flies. The kind you’d find around cows and sheeps and other farm animals. But they didn’t do their buzzing the same way.

One was staying higher, flying first to one glass pane then walking along the mullions like it was a sidewalk. The other bugger was working an area lower down. At first I thought they might be territorial but then, thinking about it as I rinsed the soap off the plates, it dawned on me; one had been in the house longer than the other. The newbie fly was still stronger and could maintain the height while the other fly was getting tired; he spent more time walking than flying.

It wouldn’t be long, I knew, before they both turned up dead. Flies don’t last long inside and finding little black cadavers lying around was a typical spring occurrence. Too bad but the buzzing does get bothersome.

So I guess that’s the answer to my question. Flies may have individual personalities but they don’t live long enough inside for anyone but another fly to notice. Now that spider over there, working on building a web in hopes of catching a flying dinner, he looks like he plans on being around a bit. Maybe he has some personal traits I can observe while doing the supper dishes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Myth of Love for Older Folks.....

This can't be the end of it ... can it?

I am a man lucky enough to have reached 70 years. Now we don’t like to hear the complaints that someone, especially a man, can find to talk about so I limit myself to only one complaint per day. The following is today’s effort.

The subject is sex for men who have reached their seventh decade. The complaint focuses on the apparent fact that it just doesn’t happen, at least not often enough. I am beginning to believe this is part of a world-wide conspiracy. It is accepted as fact and I’m certain that fact is based on a myth.

The myth is that love among older people is wise, mature, asexual — that all the wild oats of youth eventually get boiled down into some bland porridge called “companionship’’. This, I firmly believe, is the epitome of idiocy. People at any age, from very young to very old are capable of love. Of course it seems to happen that these affairs of the heart for the very young and very old often have a shorter lifespan than for those pesky middle years when binding commitments so easily occur.

Let me set the stage: reaching the grand old age of 70, a man enters into a world of limitations. He may be hale and hearty, healthy and vigorous, fit and full of fun, but he is finished. He might as well have his age branded on his forehead in burning numbers – he has passed his use by date.

I doubt that I’m alone with finding fault with this but nobody wants to hear a man complain so nothing is said. This is my turn to complain, though, so listen up.

For some time, and I can only speak for myself, I’ve noticed a particular form of discrimination. You can check this out for yourself by simply taking a look through the pages and pages of women seeking men on any of the popular internet dating sites. The list of available women thins out when getting close to my age group. Women about 65 and up have given up the search. They seem to have closed the doors and their minds on anything other than gardening or knitting. Is it any wonder that older men lust after younger women? Do you notice how, if an older man has an attractive, lusty, lovable woman on his arm she is of another nationality? Women from Bangkok, Bali or the Philippines don’t seem to have anti-old feelings.

You want more proof? This information comes in a study where the sexual habits and desires of people in the 75 to 85 age group were questioned. The result that I found interesting was that only 17% of those women interviewed considered themselves to be sexually active or wanting to be sexually active. With men in that group, 40% were or had the desire to be. That imbalance, in my view, doesn’t bode well for the more mature male.

Another study talked about the suspected increase of MSM relationships. MSM is in the popular vernacular simply men who have sex with males but do not regard themselves as gay.

A New York City survey that appeared in the September 19, 2006, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine reported growing evidence that many men who have sex with men aren’t all gay or bisexual. A more recent study conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control upheld this assertion. In both cases the comment was made that such activity was more common in older men, those in the 70 to 80 age group.

So where does that leave us ‘oldies’? Without. Women I might want to get to know are over it, don’t want it or simply put, can’t be bothered. I look around the tennis court at my male competitors and I can see why. However when Mother Nature created all the parts that go into what makes up a man and woman, she was definitely on the female side of things; she overlooked including the same “I’m over it now” switch in men that was supplied to women.

If the ratio is 40% to 17% against me now, what the hell have I got to look forward to when I get into the next age group?

Here, Fido, come here, boy.

My new hero ...

I have a new hero ... Sir Terry Prachett.

Sir Terry is a gray-bearded elderly man with a soft British accent who is a very successful author of science fiction/fantasy. The reason this man has become my leader is his calling for euthanasia tribunals to give sufferers from incurable diseases the right to medical help to end their lives. Sir Terry is suffering the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

In a recent interview Sir Terry made a number of statements I appreciated. For one, he blames today’s accepted vision of death and the treatment of palliative care on what he labels “curdled Christianity”. It is the belief that a person’s life is sacrosanct and only God should be the final arbitrator of when it ends is, in his words, inhuman. Especially, he points out, when one is suffering an incurable diseased, pain-filled life. That, he says is the fullness of inhumanity.

Of his own Alzheimer’s, he is quoted as saying, "It is not nice and I do not wish to be there for the endgame." Sir Terry is a patron of the UK’s Alzheimer's Research Trust, and has donated £500,000 of his own money for research.

Another quote from the interview I watched on ABC1 (that’s Australia’s ABC, not the one in the US) explained: "I don't think people are particularly bothered about death, it's the life before death that worries us.

The fear that euthanasia would open the door for someone from the younger generation hurrying an elderly relative’s death for personal gain is, Sir Terry says, is bunk. He said there was no evidence from countries where assisted dying is allowed of granny being coerced into dying so relatives could get their hands on her money.
It is a matter of personal choice, he stated. "Choice is very important in this matter. But there will be some probably older, probably wiser GPs, who will understand. The tribunal would be acting for the good of society as well as that of the applicant – and ensure they are of sound and informed mind, firm in their purpose, suffering from a life-threatening and incurable disease and not under the influence of a third party.

One aspect of allowing such an act would, he believes, open the door for the person to put off taking the final action. When the decision is theirs it is likely to be delayed. “Ah, yes today would be a good day to die,” he visualizes someone saying, “except it’s also a good day to visit with my friends so I’ll do it tomorrow.”
It gives a person a different set of values when he or she has that choice. "If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life, my death, my choice."

Euthanasia isn’t the only topic for which Sir Terry is known to hold strong opinions on that find agreement with me; there is also religion. I won’t go into it here, but will simply add a youtube conversation with Sir Terry which I applaud.

Sit through this mini-lecture and get a feel for this man’s thinking and he just might become your hero too.

Now I’ve got a lawn that needs mowing. Who in hell ever decided it was cool to grow grass for no other reason than to have something to mow?

There’s no such thing as freedom

First thing to remember is I was born, raised and educated in the United States. Up there in the left hand corner, in Oregon. A smallish town of about 8,000 when I was growing up named Grants Pass. Look it up on Google Earth if you want. I can’t tell you how this community came by its name. The only Grant I ever heard of was Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War hero and one time president. Historically speaking, he never passed through that little valley. Guess it doesn’t matter. But this really has nothing to do with this grumble other than the fact that I was brought up to think in a certain way. North Americans do, you know.

People outside the US shouldn’t hold that against them but they do, and it’s understandable. Norte Americanos don’t have a clue. Anyone of them who have never travelled outside the boundaries believes they live in the center of the universe. Actually they think they ARE the universe ... every other place is there to serve them, make their shoes, cars, shirts and kung fu movies. Oh, and pick the beans and peaches out in the fields. Mustn’t forget that.

It’s interesting to hear Australians who have travelled to the US talk about Yanks. Why, I’m asked quite frequently, don’t Americans understand the rest of the world? Of course this question only comes up after the Aussie asking it finds out I too am an Australian. Dual citizenship, you know. Other than giving me the right (duty?) to vote in both countries, it gives me the insight on how those crazy Americans think. Yeah, right.

Australians travel, that’s a fact. Probably not as much as in other places but on a per capital basis a helluva lot more than folks living in the US. That’s a big part of the reason Yanks have such a myopic view of the world. If it doesn’t happen in the US it isn’t important. I believe that type of thinking, just like the North Americans view on gun control, begins at birth. Nowhere else in this world do people love their guns as much. Well, you might want to argue that people living in places like Afghanistan or Columbia are as gun happy but I don’t think the common man on the street in either is likely to be packing a S&W .38 in a hip pocket. The drug lords or insurgents in those countries might, but not Joe or Josephine Q. Public.
Another thing that is totally different for people growing up in the US is their belief in freedom. That’s what I’m talking about today. Freedom.

What do you think it is? What comes to mind when you say or hear the word? Well, since moving to Tasmania I’ve come to realize it ain’t what I thought it was.
One of the reasons I gave when someone asked why I’d want to leave the subtropics for the colder climate of Tassie was the trout fishing. The world class trout streams and rivers down here on the Emerald Island. Another reason is fewer people. Queensland, unless you’re living somewhere out in the bush, is filling up. Folks are all the time moving north from Melbourne and Sydney to get away from crowds and cold. That means that the best living areas along the Sunshine Coast is changing. Prices going up, housing difficult to find, and what there is becomes more and more expensive. But one of the main reasons I’d be quick to explain for my relocating is freedom.

Why do you live where you do? Because of family? Employment? Thinking back over my life I realized every move I ever made was for one or the other of these reasons. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t all bad. Just once, though, I wanted to go live where I wanted to live. I wanted the freedom to choose exactly where. So it was off to Tasmania.

It only took a week or two before I made my discovery about how erroneous my vision of freedom really is. I had given it a lot of thought on what exactly I was looking for. My list wasn’t long, a two or three bedroom house in a small community, somewhat close to amenities such as a super market, library, good internet access and most importantly, a tennis club. Oh, and within an hours’ drive or so to the Mersy River. A fly fisherman’s dream. Okay, go back to that Google map and check it out; there are dozens, maybe even a dozen dozen smallish communities that fit that list. So which one?

Well, having the freedom to choose, I took a road trip. Town after town I drove into, looked over, checked out and in a number of them even stayed the night. Town after town, village after village, I somehow wasn’t satisfied. Some were old and looked older, others old and proud, and still others ... well, not one of them made me feel at home.

So where am I going with this you ask? The thing we all forget, that is those of us who always felt that “freedom” meant being able to do what you want with no boundaries as long as it doesn’t adversely impact anyone else, is that there is no such thing. The lesson I’m learning is that all those times I moved for other reasons, other than simply saying I want to choose, is that one needs limitations. One needs to have more than “just because I want to”.

Yes, within the criteria I laid out I could live in almost any place I want. BUT without a better reason none of those places appeal to me. Or to put it another way, anyone of them would make me happy after I’ve lived there a while. Think about it. Every time I moved to a new town for a new job, or moved to a new country to be close to my daughter and her family, I was neither uncomfortable nor comfortable with the area. It just didn’t matter. Plus once I was there and settled the place became ‘home’.

There you have it ... my frustration on learning there is no such thing as absolute freedom, not of choice nor do I expect of much else. A decision is always easier made if the choices are limited.

I think I’ll move once every six months for the rest of my life and not worry about making a decision. Now that would be a different color of freedom, wouldn’t it?

The War on Drugs is a Bust!

It is official after 40 Years:
War on Drugs is a Bust!

Let me begin by reminding everyone that while I am a resident of Australia I continue to hold US citizenship and have great interest in what happens up in “my “old country.” That being said, maybe it can be understood why the the anniversary to this foolishness caught my attention.

Forty years ago, President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse the No. 1 enemy of the United States and launched the war on drugs. As the 40th anniversary is here one thing is clear and even blue-ribbon groups are conceding what the street already knows: the War on Drugs is a Bust!

Last week, the Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a 19-member commission that included Kofi Annan, a former U.N. secretary general; George Shultz, President Ronald Reagan's secretary of state; and Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, declared that: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the U.S. government's war on drugs; fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed."
The White House immediately shot back: no dice.

Let’s take a moment to think rationally about this.

Prohibition didn't work before and it's not working now. We obviously have not learned anything from history. Alcohol took less than 20. As long as there is a demand there will be a supply. Business 101.

The US is in a unique position in the world. Stop engaging in overseas wars, and end the war on drugs, and your economy will once again skyrocket to the top of the pack. No more deficits, federal or state. More people productive in the work force instead of languishing in prison. Less social cost. Less money going to make things that blow up overseas, and more available for improving education and health. A lot of countries have systemic problems that can't be overcome with a simple change of a law, and a simple 'okay, bring the troops home'. Your country has everything an economy needs, resources, oil, an educated workforce, a good mix of ages, a good mix of ethnicities, a relatively uncorrupt system, and so on. Eventually enough people will get the message, and the war on drugs will end. So many lives lost though in the meantime.

In the US the "War on Drugs" has become a massive business and as such ending it is no longer a social issue. It, like most things in the US, comes down to money and the people raking in the money do not want it to end. Stop and consider how many DEA, ICE, local cops, parole/probation officers as well as the entire prison complex depend upon this so called war to keep them employed. Consider the explosion of private prisons in the US. These folks do NOT want to see the gravy train come to an end.

Forty years! Two generations as we used to count it. The chances this program will meet the death it deserves are just as great as a paper shirt in a bear fight.

How much wiser to abandon the "war" on marijuana, legalize it, and tax it. How much tax money would that bring in? As to the other drugs, under Obamacare those using them could be forced to add a rider to their insurance to cover the cost of treatment, should they seek it. That way they wouldn't be a burden on the taxpayers beyond the supplement they'd no doubt get for premiums they otherwise couldn't afford.
Since under Obamacare an insurance company cannot deny a policy for a pre-existing condition, this appears to be a possible answer to the "war" issue.

What are the chances that someone in a leadership role will step up to the plate and say enough is enough? Slim. It doesn’t take a genius to count the number of members of Congress that have the back bone to stand up and say the war on drugs is a complete failure. Most remain out of fear of being labeled "soft on crime" even though they know with a total certainty the entire thing is a massive failure.

But possibly the people themselves will make the war reach a logical conclusion. Recently the governor of the state of Connecticut presented a bill to that state’s legislature that would legalize the medical use of marijuana. If adopted Connecticut would join the other 16 legal medical marijuana states. At the present time nine more states have legalization pending for this. With a total of 26 states making it legal, can the federal government be far behind?

Now let me bring this home to Australia; specifically to Tasmania. Field trials are being conducted here as well as in South Australia, and a two-year study is under way at the University of Tasmania to see whether low-THC hemp cultivation would be viable under local conditions. Two major paper companies are conducting their own laboratory pulping trials using materials from the experimental fields with a view to utilizing hemp as a strengthening supplement to wood and straw based paper.

Of course the both state and country officials are adamantly opposed to this, a fact that I personally find humorous. Think about Tasmania where one of the largest agricultural crops produces opium alkaloids for the pharmaceutical market. Yes, tens of thousands of hectares are planted each year in poppies. Did you know that Tasmania produces about 50% of the world’s concentrated poppy straw (CPS) for morphine? It provides 40% of the US market's legal opiate supply in the form of codeine, thebaine and other variants. Other pharmaceutical chemicals are derived and sent to other countries like United Kingdom. And this has been going on since the 1960s.

But to make it legal to grow non-THC hemp, the source of more than 5,000 products is, thanks to the American’s war on drugs, forbidden.

Possibly this is a topic for another day. But I have to ask, isn’t it about time that the war on drugs is declared over?

Some thoughts and memories of death

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Not as a morbid thing to ponder, just as a fact of life.

It all started running through my mind, I suppose, right after Oscar died. He is, or was, my next door neighbour. A likeable man, he died just a few months shy of his 90th birthday. Just as everyone who has lived that long, he had a lifetime of stories that might have been just life to him but are unique to the rest of us. For example, he had flown Spitfires in WWII and was quite proud of it. Not that he’d merely flown the airplane but that he’d done it and lived. Thousands of Spitfire pilots didn’t. For you flatlanders, that airplane and the pilots were what saved the British in WWII. An interesting man who, like so many that fought on the winning side during those war years, talked as if that period was the fulcrum of their lives. I guess maybe it was.

Each morning at 8 sharp he’d come out the front door, get into his two-year old Honda and drive off returning either an hour or an hour and a half later. The hour trips were spent having breakfast with his daughter and son-in-law on the other side of town, the longer absences could be accounted for by the one or two grocery bags he’d take out of the back of the Honda when he got home. That was what got my attention, the morning I didn’t hear him drive off.

Oscar wasn’t the first dead man I’d ever found lying peacefully in his bed. The first time was in about 1959 or 60. Maybe 61, I’m not sure. My wife and I had taken an apartment on Van Buren Street in Monterey, California. The apartment was one of two above four garages. The other two garages were for the residents of two small cottages, one on either side of the taller building making it all a U shaped bunch. As I recall, all the structures were in the typical Spanish design. The exterior walls had been stuccoed and looked just like the adobe of early California history. Fronting the high, long pair of apartments over the garages, with the cottages making the short legs of the “U”, was landscaped garden. At least that’s how I remember it. I could be wrong.

That was where we lived when our daughter was born. I’d have been about 23 or 24 years old, my wife about two years younger. It’s funny how that works out. There are huge segments of my life that seems in retrospect to be compressed in time. There are a lot of memories I have of the time we lived in Monterey, actually more than could have happened in those few years. That makes me wonder. At the time I was employed briefly as a liquor salesman/truck driver. Each day I’d take the orders for the sales I’d made the day before, go out to the warehouse and load up my truck and make my rounds. The company sold a variety of liquor and beer. The beer was Olympia, a brew from Oregon with the slogan, “It’s the water.” The brewery supposedly used artesian waters which made it special. To my taste I thought the special water only made me want to pee a lot more.

The practice for the driver’s was to deliver the couple dozen cases of beer and all the whiskeys, pick up the empty beer bottles and return them to the warehouse. Often when a bottle or two in a case was broken it would damage the case and the store owner or bartender would want it returned. As I lived at the end of my route, often I’d drive my trunk home in the evening and then go over to the warehouse in the morning. This was good because it allowed me to make up full cases of beer from those damaged and leave them in my garage. This wasn’t stealing exactly and as I remember not liking the beer I can’t recall why I did it. But I did.

When we moved from Van Buren Street I can remember filling the rental truck with our furniture and all those boxes of stuff we’d accumulated in our young marriage and then looking at all those cases of beer. I was driving a small English car at that time, or maybe it was the Volkswagen, the one with the bullet hole in the door on the driver’s side, I don’t recall. But I do know there wasn’t enough room in the garage for my car. Just stacks of beer cases. The smell of stale beer must have made the air thick. I know I had to park out in the street.

Actually the garages opened up on a dead-end street, a block up from Van Buren. Well, moving I knew I couldn’t leave all that beer there. To top it off not only was there no room in the truck but I certainly didn’t want to take it with me. The best thing I could think of was to open up the garage door, invite all the neighbours over for a street party. Things were really starting to get going when I got in the rental truck and drove off. I’ve often wondered how long it took for them to empty the garage. Couldn’t do something like that today, I suppose.

But to get back to it ... the couple living in the cottage next to our apartment were old. Remember I was only 23 or so that might be a judgement call. One Sunday morning, as I remember it, I heard the old woman calling me and went out on the porch to see what she wanted. Will you help me a moment? she called up and naturally I went down. It turned out that when she woke up her husband hadn’t and she didn’t know what to do. I didn’t either and for the life of me I can’t remember what I did. But while she made us a cup of coffee, I did whatever it was. I do remember the coffee as being weak.

I didn’t get a cup of coffee when I found Oscar dead in his bed. I called his daughter and then the police. All these people came and I went back to my place to make my own coffee.

Death is an interesting thing to contemplate. I’m not sure if finding Oscar dead in bed got me thinking or noticing how the skin on the back of my hands had become all crinkly and thin looking or not. It must have happened in the last few weeks because I hadn’t noticed it before. Again it might be that I’ve got another birthday coming and I’m just starting to see things like that. The number keeps growing.

Now I’m not worried about my own death, it’ll happen when it happens and I don’t think it’s likely right now. That statement is based on two things; first I found a website that asked a lot of questions and then told me how old I’m liable to be when my body gives it up. The second thing is the ages of my grandfather, my mother and others in my family. My father went at the age of 27, killed in an industrial accident, so that lets him out. I was only two at the time and never knew him. My step-father, a wonderful man who made my mother very happy for a helluva lot of years, was 85 or so when he died, so I threw that into the mix too. Mom was 86 when she died. They had been married about 60 years. Wow!

I remember one day she and I were sitting at a picnic table in a park along the river, enjoying the sunshine, sharing a bottle of beer, just visiting. It must have been close to her birthday, I don’t know, but I asked her if she was happy with her life. She thought about it and said yes. All her kids, she pointed out, had turned out good and things were looking alright for their families. Yeah, she said, she was satisfied. There was one thing though, she said would be nice. She would like to live long enough to see the new century come in. I don’t remember what year that was but it must have been in the late 1990s. Mom wanted to see the calendar turn over into the 21st century. Well, she did and about all she ever said about it was that it didn’t seem to matter much. Of course she would also snicker over the foolishness of the so-called Y2K bug.

Her father, my maternal grandfather, was in his mid-eighties when he died. My father’s father, another man I never met, reportedly died at about that same age too.

So, if the ages of my family members have any bearing on things it fits in with what the internet website result was; I should have another ten years or so to enjoy things. The only downside that I can see is those wrinkles on the backs of my hands. If all that started showing up in just the past few weeks or so, what will the next ten years bring? Guess I’ll have to stick around to find out. I’ll keep you posted.