Here’s one. She’s 93. This must be an old picture, but 93 is a pretty good age at which to pass. It doesn’t help me much. She’s a she, and she people seem to live longer than he people.
Here’s a he, but he died at 84, and that’s not going to help me today. That’s way too inside the margin of error. That’s about where President Barack Obama is, and I know he’s nervous.
Almost all of these people passed away in their mid-80s, and that’s adding to my unease. Is there a trend, do you think? I mean, of people passing away in their mid-80s? I hate trends either in politics or fashion, food or movies, but certainly in death rates.
What I’m doing here is going through a two-week collection of obituaries that I’ve assembled. I’ve got a nice little stack going. I’m out in the car with my laptop writing this. I’ll explain that in a minute.
I started doing this in my mid-70s, until I got so obsessive about it, that she, who, according to statistics is going to outlive me, started pulling the obit section before I got to it, and removed it from the paper.
“What happened to the obits?” I shouted up to her.
“There weren’t any today,” she yelled back.
No obits? That’s absurd. Does she think me a fool? I knew at once what she was up to. When I got obsessive about the presidential race, she started removing the front page. Really? No front page today? That’s when I knew that she had one nerve left, and I was getting on it.
So I get up earlier now, and get to the paper first, so that I can pluck out the obits and scan them for people who are dying in their 80s.
This is more intense this week, because Friday is my annual exam, and as usual, I know that he’s going to find something scary, not that he will let on. My doctor has this practiced visage, a sort of poker face, that kind of blank expression professional poker players use. But like many pros, he has what they call a tell. That’s a movement or tic that betrays their real thoughts, what sort of hand they’re holding. His is, at first, hard to see, but I’ve been seeing him long enough to detect it. He sort of winces at the screen of his computer, and sighs. That’s the tell. But I think he knows I’m onto it and he does it for comic relief.
Here are two scary obits. One is from the Boston Globe and the other from the New York Times. I’ve been expanding my search engine, hoping to find older passings. Both guys passed in their late 70s. According to the opening here, both went home to their “savior.” I respect all religions, but I know this one, and I can tell by his name that he’s Jewish, so the savior thing is a big mistake. Maybe they wrote it in a hurry or maybe he converted. It happens.
I try to avoid the big papers and magazines, because the deceased are all famous. That’s depressing when someone like Alex Karras, the actor and football player, passes so young.
Here’s another woman who recently passed at the age of 98. She outlived her husband who passed at the age of 69. She, who keeps everything in our lives in folders neatly filed away, keeps trying to get me to sit down and pay attention, so she can instruct me on how to pay the bills, do the taxes, and learn where all the important papers are kept in case, as she indelicately puts it, “I drop dead in the classroom.”
I, in turn, show her my collection of obits to prove that she’s wasting my time, as she is clearly going to outlive me. As she knows where everything is kept including my collection of silk pocket hankies, this practice is a waste of time.
I must remember to wear clean underwear to my exam tomorrow, in case he tells me I’m terminal, and I die from shock on the spot. My mother always told me to do that just in case. Oh, here’s one. He passed unexpectedly at 98. Whew! I’m still within the margin of error. Oh, oh. She’s coming out. Quick, where’s the sports page?
J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.