Word came to me from my friend’s ex-wife: another buddy gone. I had to call the new wife for the details. What I was looking for was when the memorial service would be. What I got was her story about what happened. “He simply went out to mow the yard and never came back.” Not much of an epitaph.
He and I had been friends back in the day, hitchhiking around on the bum. We were the kind of friends who didn’t keep in touch, but always felt connected. The kind of friends that, when I heard about the heart attack on the lawn, I had to go online and check out the weather that day. Ninety-five degrees, and he had to mow the lawn. “What an idiot,” I thought. “He never did wise up. Always set to do the dumbest thing.” That’s the kind of friends we were, friends who didn’t pull punches and helped each other to see the worst in ourselves.
So, for the last few days, I’ve put on some old records and listened to the memories we shared. What crazy kids! What ridiculous music. We were going to change the world. Peace and love. He retired an accountant from a big firm with an unsavory reputation for helping big corporations hide money and avoid taxes. I’m a mortgage banker. Save the world. We didn’t even save enough for a long, comfortable retirement.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining here. He had a great life, and I’m having one still. It is just at times like these, I often end up thinking about how much we leave undone. We went years barely even talking. About the only time we saw each other was at funerals. Maybe that is just how growing older is. Eventually, you have your neighbors, your funeral friends, and what’s left of your family. Eventually, the obituaries become a daily read.
The trend is for obits nearer my age. In fact, there has been an alarming upswing in those younger than me. The pictures can be confusing. A ninety-year-old guy with his WW2 uniform or someone in their eighties with their prom picture – well, ya gotta wonder. In all those years, there wasn’t a more recent happy or nice picture?
Of course, that can send me into my collection of pictures. Which one do I want? Well, it usually turns out after an hour of sorting I come up with the same one. It’s of me in a cowboy hat with a moustache and bushy sideburns. A self-portrait I took back in the 60’s.
If he were still alive to see that in the obits, I can imagine what my old bud would say: “That picture! Is that the best he could do? Lived another 50 years and no one ever photographed him again. Well, he was pretty ugly.”
Aging in Place, in doesn’t happen by accident and it comes with a lot of goodbyes.
Scott Funk is Vermont’s leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families. He works as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage reverse mortgage and HECM for Purchase specialist. You can access previous Aging in Place columns and Scott’s blogs at scottfunk.org. His e-book is available on Amazon.