I have a doctor's appointment this afternoon.
I hate having appointments -- they always seem to collapse the time around them (especially the time ahead of them), so I end up not getting anything useful accomplished, because I'm keeping an eye on the clock, so I'll start getting ready, and still be able to get to the office in time to wait, usually, for about an hour. Which should make me crazy, but somehow doesn't, because my job is over, and I can legitimately spend that time day-dreaming.
My one true skill, day-dreaming. Of course, it made me immensely unpopular in my household of origin -- I think they could sense, with some hidden palps or something, the times that I wasn't doing homework, or scrubbing the floors, but was instead miles and centuries away, and not at all eager to come back. Recently, in what seems to be a re-examination of my life that's typical of guys in their mid-sixties (I can't afford a distracting red MGTD), I've realized that I would have been happiest, probably, as a long-distance truck driver. While physically engaged in something at least nominally profitable, my mind would be at leisure to spin itself off into any number of lingering constructions, to be refined and revisited whenever the mood suited me. Plus I'm generally fond of driving. Whether my lower back would have survived is another matter altogether.
One of the things I'll probably be daydreaming about, waiting in the cardiologist's office (I just know they're going to decide that I wasn't really supposed to have a pacemaker after all -- that it was meant for Wayne Zimmerman, and they'll want to take it back immediately) (which is, in itself, another daydream. I may be done with it already, though), will be time. Amounts of time. Specifically, the amount of time I might have, to be warm and pliant and moist, alert and somewhat cogent and breathing.
At the open house I attended last night, I had a snippet of conversation with one of the other men in John's 'Canticum Novum' choir. He'd just had cataract surgery on both his eyes, and hadn't been to rehearsal for a few weeks, and I wanted to catch up, and hear about his adventures. In the process of describing the anaesthesia, and the after-effects, and the change in his color perception, he mentioned that he thought he was doing pretty well for a guy facing his 83rd birthday. With which observation I certainly had to agree. Then he leaned over to me and said, 'Well, you know, everything goes along fine, from a physical point of view, until you hit 70. That's when problems start to crop up, and systems begin to break down.'
I probably would have chuckled much more loudly if I were ten years younger. But I'll be 'celebrating' (?) my 70th birthday in just four years, and it seems chillingly surreal to me -- what am I going to see happen, in such a brief period of time? Will I begin, suddenly, to shrivel and shrink? Will my back refuse to stay straight, and my sure stride ratchet down to a nervous shuffle? I feel as though there's a bomb planted in the house, and even if I find it, it can't be removed, and is set to go off, no matter what.
Unless, of course, I move out early. There is always that.
Decades ago, when I lived in Rhode Island, and had a night job as a computer operator, I once got the idea of trying to put into concrete, meaningfully relevant terms, what it would be like for one person to have a billion dollars. I'd just read something along those lines, but the examples given by the article's author struck me as truly stupid. Who cares how many times a billion one-dollar bills will wrap themselves around the Earth's equator? Or how high a stack they would make, and how close that would get you to the moon? Why would I want to know how big a room I'd need, if I wanted to store that billion dollars all in one place? These are not things I generally think about, when dealing with money. I think about spending it.
So I decided to figure out what spending a billion dollars would entail. And the only grounded premise I could come up with was this: a child is born, and there is, in an untouchable fund, one billion dollars, all of which must be spent by the time this child turns the Biblical three-score and ten -- 70 years old. I was giving this person no days off, nor needing any interest from this capital. Just, every day, a set sum of money would have to be spent, to reach the goal of $.00, in DOB+70.
So of course, the first thing I had to do was to figure out how many days of regular spending one would face, to accomplish this expenditure. Adding extra days for in leap-years, the number came to
(apologies for possibly bad math) 25,568, plus or minus a day for fractions of hours over 70 years.
25, 568 days, in a 70-year life-span. I pretty much stopped my calculations right there. Although I'd wanted to show, I guess, how obscene it is for any single person to be able to claim to have $1,000,000,000 in ready cash -- by showing how quickly even an infant could accrue -- with someone acting as an agent, of course - the wherewithal for a lavish house, all the food necessary for the near future, educational costs, ownership of a luxury car (even though the owner would not, at that point, have mastered properly timed elimination, let along qualifying for a driver's license... -- I just got completely stuck -- mesmerized, I guess -- by that paltry number of days, in 70 years. At that point, I was already closing in on the halfway point, and was jarred at how much of my allotment I'd already heedlessly ripped through. I did some more very depressing math, which I will keep to myself. You are probably already doing your own, perhaps.
And now, I'm exponentially closer to that Biblically-endorsed cut-off date, and it's really difficult to figure out how to proceed. I could, of course, pretend not to know, but I think it's too late for that. Am I profligate? Do I stint? Suddenly, my blithe comment, yesterday, about taking two years to finish my Combat Paper book, seems more weighty -- am I willing to invest that much... time? I find that so much of my life has been lived in terms of what's going to happen someday, and now I see that, for me at least, there's little likelihood that any of the days ahead will be that different from the ones I've already lived, and that 'someday' is another of those daydreams I would have spun out for myself, driving through dark Wyoming with a load of canned goods in the back.
Mostly, right now at least, I find myself wandering through my life, as though I'm visiting a theater set after the production has had its run, and I'm confronted with how shoddily-built a lot of the set actually was -- how ill-kempt and unnecessarily littered. I'm especially ashamed of having put John through such an ordeal. None of these emotions, however, seems to provide the spark necessary to actually do something -- to start clearing away the detritus, so some other actor can have access to the theater.
I really could know what day this is, in the count-down. But even beginning to do the simple arithmetic makes my heart freeze. Is it denial if you know you're fooling yourself? For some reason, I have an urge to grab my coat, set the house alarm, and dash out the door, running. In any direction. As fast as I can, as long as I can. And then walking. Maybe even crawling. But moving, to get away. Even though I know full well that, over my head, is an invisible stop-watch, tick, tick, tick...
© 2013 Walter Zimmerman