Dec. 1, 2012 was a day that I had written down on my calendar months ago, even years. It was the day my father died.
He died in his 41st year, 185th day. My 41st year and 185th day was Dec. 1. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I just remembered it and thought about it and breathed very slowly.
But even now, three months later, I slowly realize that every bit of borrowed time is made worse by my sense of dread. I don’t mean that in the worst way possible, but I do think that this is time that my father never had. By his 41st birthday, he owned a business, had three children — one in college — and built the house where my mother still lives. I am single, no children, and I am still renting (the house-buying business is not exactly the way it used to be, but I’m sure most of you know that).
I’ve achieved much. I have worked steadily, I have many, many friends. I have known love, although it ended not by my choosing. I have seen great sights, traveled most of the country and some of the world. If I were to drop dead tomorrow, I can’t say I didn’t give my life a good run.
But when I think that my dad didn’t get to this point in his life, I am a bit more desperate to make the next (hopefully) 20 years more meaningful with fewer mistakes and fewer regrets.
The funny thing is, on that December morning, I didn’t feel 41 years 185 days old. I don’t think I look like it yet. I have constantly been greeted with shocked faces in the past few years when I reveal my true age. I see pictures of my dad, and he just looks ... older. Maybe that’s wisdom. Maybe it’s smoking. maybe it’s both.
And yet I am still breaking down. The body may be a temple, but in my case, it is certainly a temple of doom. I am at least 40 pounds overweight, a problem I have battled for 20 years, winning sometimes, losing far too many others. One trip up the Big Dam Bridge last week confirmed that it is not as easy as it was just two years ago to “go for a run.”
I’m slowly saying goodbye to my hair. A female co-worker texted an avatar of me she had been working on using cartoon faces. The fake man she had created had glasses, a round face and no hair on top. None.
“Is that me?”
“You can’t tell who that is?”
“It’s so sad looking.”
“They didn’t have your hair available. I think I got the other parts right.”
“I look like I’m 60!”
Yeah, if Archie Bunker is the test case for distinguished, then this picture is distinguished. I spent the next hour taking pictures of the top of my head with my iPhone. It became an exercise in self-loathing. I went to bed clutching the few follicles I had left for fear they would find the 120-count pillow cases more inviting.
And although Billy Crystal said, “It is better to look good than to feel good” — yes, I’m old enough to remember that reference — I have to admit that while I welcome the responsibility of full-fledged adulthood, I still feel young. I like to go to rock concerts. I like to frequent the occasional watering hole. I usually don’t get offended by “offensive material.” I may not be hip, but I am decades away from socks and sandals.
I’ve still got living to do, even though that may be done with less hair. Hopefully it can be done with less girth. Hopefully it can be done with a sense of wonder and an appreciation of life. I realize that these days are not free. Although I spend most of them behind a desk telling you about them, that is at least a part of living.
I owe my father that much.
(Richard Duke is the editor of the Log Cabin Democrat. He is 5’9” and prefers not to reveal his weight. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 505-1297)