I just turned fifty.
A numerically curious landmark I suppose, but it is just another year. At least that's the way I felt when the earth finally got around to complete its orbit around that star in our solar system.
My de facto best friend decided that it would be in my best interests to hold the company's holiday party on the same day. Well, the food was good enough, the presents welcome, and the night rather ordinary, so I cannot complain.
My wife wanted to get me something, I refused at first then relented for cable TV in my study. No wait, I change it to a credenza or a nice desk. It should be better than the office desk I picked up from a office giveaway seven years ago. My in-laws gifted me a thousand bucks; my mom and sis remembered my birthday, as did friends and other family. I still have a buffet at an Indian restaurant which few like, but I enjoy, coming up one of these days. So just about perfect. I have grown to hate the fanfare, and it is more complicated each year to maintain calm in the face of banal celebrations which get tiresome every passing year, and seem to irritate everybody else when I do not break down and enjoy it like they expect me to.
I often wondered how long I'd live. My dad died at 66, his dad in his late forties, or so I think; his mom in her early forties; my mom is doing well at 78 after a quintuple bypass at 62; her mom passed away at a robust 91; and her dad at 67 after a few heart attacks. Checkered, till I find that her brothers passed away at 46 and 48, and my father's siblings, the ones that are alive doing well enough. OK, more checkered.
I have taken better care of my exercise and diet regimen than any of them, and still am in decent health, playing tennis about ten hours a week. I have periodic visits to the MDs (plural), and have no diabetes, control over my cholesterol, and my weight. Well, I am a bit overweight, but active enough. Some back pain, and a little high blood pressure now and then, but generally in good shape.
But then fifty is some sort of landmark, so my sis insists on a flurry of tests. As my primary care MD has his fist—at least that is what it felt like—up my behind looking for an enlarged gland, he signs me up for a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, and a stress test.
The stress test was apparently abnormal. So to confirm its findings, the cardiologist schedules a "nukular" (at least that is what she said) stress test.
That too has come back largely A. B. normal. Oh joy, now I have to meet another cardiologist so that he can tell me the "next steps".
For the first time in my life, I thought about my mortality. I am actually thinking, carefully, how long I'd live. My estimate had always been a 65-70 year lifespan given my family history, and for the briefest hours, I wondered about that. A little anxious, I conceived that I was exhibiting every symptom of a heart attack I could find online.
That was the last three days. I have since gathered my wits and figured that I should still make it to my estimated lifespan, probably longer. I figure an angiogram in the next week, possibly an angioplasty, and in the worst case a bypass. Either way, I am happy my sis forced me into having one more test than my primary care MD was thinking about.
So here I am, just past fifty, when the unsolicited telemarketing calls come in for "his and her burial plots", when I was confronted with my own mortality. Inconvenient, but that is part of reality.
I have decided to get past this inconvenience with the best medicine available, if I need it—and today I can afford it—and with slightly better, improved lifestyle choices. I also expect it to be easy since there is not much I need to change. Maybe add some gym time in addition to my four times a week of doubles tennis. And meds.
But I also decided that I am going to enjoy life a little more fully from now on. Because regardless of my ailments, I am now fifty, and my lifespan may involve only 15-20 years more. I might as well make the most of it. Be a better spouse, a better father, a better friend, and yes, a lot more selfish. I realize that one or more of these will conflict with the others, but I will sacrifice that consistency, and simultaneously forget to regret.
I simply do not have the time.
No, and perhaps this is what some of you are wondering, I never once reconsidered whether there is a God. There is none.