(Arlo & Janis, 1998)
A pair of classics express my station in life: I'm not retired but have my work down to a level at which I do things I enjoy at a pace that works for me and that gives me time to assume the role of the kindly old fellow. It's a pleasant place to be.
On the other hand, Arlo -- who lives pretty much in a constant state of mid-life crisis -- shows the other side of the coin, and he absolutely speaks for me: I regret very little except that I won't get the chance to do it all again, because it was a blast.
Which doesn't mean I'm done. Not in the least. But it does mean I accept my place as a runner in the Friendly Retired Guy 100 Yard Dash.
And it pisses me off to have anything interfere with this good place I've worked my way into.
However, this will be my last posting for a couple of weeks as I undergo some surgery, and, actually, quite a bit of it, which is why it will be a break of a few weeks and not a few days.
To be specific, I'm losing my bladder, prostate and a nearby lymph node and, yes, that latter is somewhat disturbing. Then again, while none of it is terribly pleasant, everything nasty seems to be confined to the things they're taking out, so that's good.
And the alternative is certainly worse.
When I was a sophomore in college, we read Epictetus and the simplicity of Stoicism impressed me greatly: There are things you can control and things you cannot control, and happiness comes when you focus on the things that are within your power.
It took a few years to get there, but I'm content with my success in that regard. I can't control the medical stuff, but I can control my response to it.
About a year later, I read Catch-22 and that also made an impression on me, though it took longer for John Yossarian to go from a theoretical ideal to a working model, and the more I see of life the more I see in him.
The bottom line is that we're all dying.
Some of us are just better at it than others.
Me? I'm hoping to screw it up completely and live, aided by the fact that I am statistically insignificant.
If there were 100 of me, most of them would be in for a bad time, but there's only one of me, so stats mean nothing.
Though you can't tell a guy like Arlo that.
This day-brightener is from 2001, but I'd already pondered it while staffing a booth at a Senior Fair some years earlier, when I noticed the number of attractive, fun, interesting old women and the very favorable ratio.
"Things sure get pretty good when you get to that age," I said, and then immediately corrected myself: "If you get to that age."
I could come out of today's operation 100% cancer free and get hit by a bus.
Which is not at all pessimistic. It's a recipe for joy.
If you don't live with that bus in mind, you'll waste whatever time you've been given, putting things off and being practical.
Leaving his father to contemplate the difference between wishing you could do it all again and wishing that you'd done it at all in the first place.
I have no "bucket list" because I decided early on that I wasn't going to sit on the porch at the Home thinking about the things I should have done.
That doesn't mean I jumped out of airplanes or sailed around the world in a dugout canoe, but I didn't put anything off that seemed important.
The longest period of frustration I endured came after a really good boss and an extremely supportive publisher left a paper where I had been working for a little over a dozen years, and the New Folks began a period of harassment to get me to quit so they could replace me with a part-timer.
There is an enormous, crucial difference between accepting that the bus will come and standing around in the rain waiting for it.
The bus is only a downer if you feel you ought to be miserable, and so you knuckle under and accept it.
I had this over my desk to remind myself that I didn't belong there, to make sure I didn't start believing I did.
Whatever happens tomorrow, I expect to be around some time longer. Either they get it all or it comes back or else I get hit by that bus, but I'm planning to squeeze out a few more years and if it turns out into quite a few more, that's okay, too. As Martin said, "Longevity has its place."
And I note that my oncologist has scheduled a follow-up appointment for next month, and he's not the type given to undue optimism, so there ya go.
He probably won't be putting himself through the seven-day schedule I've kept for the past six years or so, because (A) he's on deadline with a major project, (B) he has a life and (C) he's not obsessive. However, he is an experienced blogger and an Eisner-winning cartoonist and you will be in good hands.
And I expect you all to behave, because I've told him to take down the names of anyone who gives him any trouble and report them to me when I get back.