A week ago, Carolyn and I flew to Texas for a nephew’s wedding. The trip brought up separate thoughts about flying and mortality.
A 6:00 am (ugh!) flight took us from San Francisco to Dallas-Fort Worth International to change planes for Waco. We flew coach. Ugh again.
Flying once was exciting and comfortable. Today, security procedures mean long lines (thank goodness for TSA Pre), translating to getting to the airport ever earlier. Then the airlines show how far flying has descended.
Rising fuel prices and COVID decreased routes and flights. Passengers resemble sardines. Want more legroom? Pay. Check a bag? Also pay. So many people bring carry-ons, boarding and deplaning take forever. Meals in coach? Fuhgeddaboudit. You’re taking a bus with wings.
Yet, sometimes things that get fouled up work out. Returning on Monday, we experienced a sort of Groundhog Day. Our flight from DFW was delayed. Once boarded, a mechanical problem required a new plane. But after only a few minutes, we were directed to a gate in a different but quickly accessed terminal. A plane awaited! We boarded. Same process, same people in the same seats, same bags in the same overhead compartments. We took off three hours late, but we took off.
Thoughts about mortality? The wedding triggered them.
The ceremony and reception were held at The Barn in Hewitt just south of Waco. Stubbly fields undulated out to the horizon. Horses grazed. A stone patio hosted the brief ceremony. Inside a pleasant venue made over for celebrations, we enjoyed a fajita buffet. A Bundt cake served as a tasty wedding cake.
Towards the end of the evening, I realized that I was the oldest person in the room. I didn’t check IDs, and people age differently, but I’m pretty sure. I’ve never before experienced that.
In many ways, I don’t think of myself as old at 77. I have my hair and teeth. I keep writing fiction; my latest novel, Lola Flores, will be available later this month. I walk 4-5 miles daily. I keep in touch with family and friends. Tonight will find me at Congregation Sherith Israel for Kabbalat Shabbat services. Hell, 80 is more than two years off.
Then again, my father Morris died at 80. So did his father, Grandpa Sam. What genetic timebombs await me? I don’t know and don’t give it much thought.
Still, my ongoing status leaves me with mixed feelings. I don’t have the energy I did at 67 or 57. But my kids are adults and doing wonderfully. I have the freedom and time to focus on writing and be there for Carolyn, family, friends and community. I try to do the “little” things about which Rabbi Larry Raphael (z”l) wrote—small acts of kindness that, when aggregated, can make a big difference.
Mortality isn’t—and never has been—sneaking up on me. Every birthday reminds me that life runs its course, and my time grows shorter. In response, I hold my head up, take each day—and birthday—as it comes.
I can live with being the oldest guy in the room from time to time. If and when those occasions grow more frequent, okay then! Given reasonable health, I’d be foolish to complain—and equally foolish to deny the challenges ahead.
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