Well, I have passed another milestone.
I arrived at age 75 this past June. Achieved didn't seem to be the right word, since achievement is commonly defined as "a goal being reached by effort, skill or courage." In my case, I kind of snuck-up on it, by merely surviving.
I did not plan to live this long. Life expectancy for my cohort --males born in 1942 -- was age 68. My dad died at age 64, and none of his three brothers lived past age 65. So I went through middle-age believing that men in my family could count themselves lucky to enjoy a year or two of retirement.
That's why I took early retirement (i.e., started collecting Social Security) at age 62.
But here is the thing about life expectancy: From birth, the actuaries have to factor-in the average rate of demise for those who will succumb to accidents, war, disaster, infectious disease and other threats to life. Assuming you don't wrap the family car around a tree on prom night or drown in the lake, there is a long list of fatal diseases that can strike during young adulthood and middle age years. But if you survive until age 65, there is a new calculation. Suddenly, you get a reprieve of another 18 years.
Now, the new life expectancy age for my cohort is 83.
Eighty-three seems old to me. My new goal is trying to achieve that age. This time, it will be a deliberate objective; I will not sneak-up on it, I will arrive on a band wagon drawn by a team of six Clydesdale. Well, you get the idea -- I will apply effort, skill and courage to get there.
I think it will take a lot of effort to stay upright, to keep moving and be as flexible as possible. Gravity is an enemy of age, it keeps trying to pull us down. I plan to reduce my body mass significantly to lessen gravity's effects on knees and joints.
It will take skill as well; the brain wants to shrink, to erase memories, to shut down -- just when we need it the most. We can't let that happen. We must encourage our own curiosity, caring, and social interaction just when it is easier to sit in front of the TV like zombies watching Jeopardy, The Kardashians or NCIS. We need to keep reading, doing crosswords, challenging mental acuity by debating those who disagree with us.
It will take courage - I like the definition: "Strength in the face of pain or grief." We need to keep a perspective on ourselves and the world, recognize those emotional triggers and fears which are the meat of media "news". We need to stay positive, and to stay funny. A sense of humor is indispensable. Resilience -- the capacity to recover rapidly from difficulties requires the courage to face the day ahead, even if it means rolling the same boulder up the same hill, with a vulture pecking at your liver.
Frankly, I have given-up on questions like "Why are we here?" "Is there an afterlife?" I accept that my life may have no more meaning than a crow's.
Just the same, both the crow and I want to stay alive as long as possible.