I made my goal, but at the same time, I failed to achieve it. That is, I lived to reach my thousand-month marker, but the problem was, I didn’t die. Instead I was condemned to begin my second thousand-year cycle, though I still cherish every hope I will end well before it does.
Actually, I remember the exact day when I reached my original goal. It was on April 13th, 2019, and, strangely enough, it was one of the very worst days of my life. As it happened, I was vacationing with my girlfriend Lauren in Pacific Grove – my longtime favorite town in California where I had spent many happy times in years past – at that time. There was a professional conference being held during that week – that was one reason we were there then – and I was going to be honored for my work. But when I woke up that day, I was terribly, wretchedly sick. I could scarcely get out of bed. I couldn’t go to the conference, I could only go to the bathroom (I will elide the sordid activities that brought me there). The thought even occurred to me that perhaps I really would die that day, but, obviously, no such luck. By the next day, although I still felt weak and wiped out, I was beginning to recover. But in a way, the worst was still to come.
That’s when I realized that my spinal stenosis from which I had already been suffering for several years had now reached a point that would prevent me from traveling or doing much of anything. Lauren and I had always enjoyed eating at our favorite restaurant there, Pepper’s, which was located toward the top of that steep hill. That day was the last day we were ever able to dine there, and that trip was the last time I was able to visit Pacific Grove, or PG, as we always called it. I have never been able to get back there – of course COVID would soon prevent that, anyway – and I never will.
So although I didn’t die that fateful, but not fatal, day, April 13th, 2019, it did seem to mark the end of my life in another way. After that day, I would become effectively housebound, which has been the case ever since. I now live essentially as something between a shut-in and a cripple. My life didn’t end that day, but in another sense, that day did indeed mark the end of my life, as I had been used to living it. In Waiting to Die, I mused that I wasn’t really afraid of death, I was afraid of living too long! Now my worst fears have been realized. I have not been able to dismount on this not-so-merry-go-round of life.
So, here I am, drifting unsteadily on wobbly legs toward 87, wondering what to do with myself. Of course, I can still read – although I’ve recently been having trouble with my vision. But after having had some surgery recently to remove something nasty from the left side of my face, something went wrong. I now have the feeling that there is a worm crawling around inside there, and the funny thing – though it’s not funny to me – is that that feeling is intensified whenever I watch TV. It’s been over a month now and my dermatologist who performed this operation has no idea what’s going on. So even watching TV is a bit of problem now, but the worm in any case does not show any interest in taking up residence elsewhere. I have other physical problems, too, but who wants to read about the troubles of an old man? I will not bore you into soporific stupefaction by giving you the litany. You get old, your body falls apart. That’s life in the lame lane. You get used to it. There are worse things, God knows. I have been lucky – or perhaps not -- to get this far.
The odd thing is, despite what I have written, I am not depressed, at least not most of the time, although occasionally I do sink into a state of torpor and ennui. But mostly not. Mostly I am still glad and grateful to be here. I just wish I could think of something useful to do with myself. Right now, it’s time to crumble up some walnuts for the birds outside on my patio. At least I can make the birds happy. That’s something.
In the meantime, I’m still playing the waiting game. So far, I’m losing, but I haven’t lost hope that I will eventually figure out what to do with myself. If you have any ideas, please let me know.