Today I am 59 years, 7 months and 3 days old. Betty died when she was 59 years, 7 months and 3 days old. Tomorrow, I will have lived one day longer than she did. Betty had 4 years, 7 months and 3 days of retirement, but the last few years were filled many days of doctor’s appointments, cancer treatments, hospital and skilled nursing stays. That time was also filled with laughter turning to tears and tears turning to laughter. Sometimes just laughter, sometimes just tears. Hours of sitting quietly watching “Frasier”, while waiting for her to fall asleep. Other hours filled with shouting out answers on “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune”. More hours of watching “Rachel Maddow” and discussing the issues of the day. And, of course, the hours she spent online, especially when I was at work.
I have been retired 1 year, 9 months and 22 days. Take away the cancer related health issues, add in a 10 day stay in the hospital last year with a leg infection, and my retirement it not unlike hers. Most nights, Guy and I fall asleep listening to “Frasier”. After watching “Rachel Maddow”, we switch over to “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune”.
So, what does all this number crunching mean? It’s not survivor’s guilt, or more accurately, it’s not only survivor’s guilt. If feels like a metric of where I am (possibly) in my life span. Barring a weird twist of fate, in a few hours, I will have lived to be older than Betty. How much more time will there be? The only thing I can accurately state; I have more years behind me, than in front of me. The first time I gave serious thought to how long I would live was 16 years ago, shortly after my mom died. I didn’t dwell on it long, my life was full with Guy, Betty (well before she was sick), a dog, a house, dancing, friends, and a job I really liked. While it had briefly crossed my mind in the intervening years, there was no serious navel gazing on my death. Then Betty died a little over 5 years ago. The grief, exhaustion and putting one foot in front of the other took all my energy for a few weeks. On the day I opened the big, manila, official envelope from the County of Alameda, holding a dozen copies of Betty’s death certificate, was day I started the countdown that ends today. I don’t know if I will continue to track time in relationship to Betty’s age. It’s not been a contest; just a weird combination of sadness and curiosity about how much longer I will live.
If I do feel the need to reach for another milestone, my mom lived 82 years, 11 months and 10 days. Let the countdown begin!