• brush those pearly deaths •
The boy just pointed out the death, in the news, of yet another celebrity, this at the age of 78.
“You’re nearly that old, aren’t you?”
“Fifty-seven,” I said, “why?”
“Man!” was all he said.
As I see it, my chances of dying, are just as good today, as they’ve ever been, as likely, or unlikely, as they ever were, given my propensity for walking into open manholes, a disposition towards cracking my skull on overhead rocks and beams (my big number), and a pronounced predilection for precipitating off of wheel houses onto steel decks and throwing myself down flights of stairs, accidentally. Largely speaking, these brushes with near death and/or dismemberment, were in my youth. Of course, I still throw in the occasional ‘face-plant’, just to keep my hand in. Practice makes perfect. Besides, my in-laws have come to expect it of me. I’ve got a ‘rep’ to maintain: ‘street cred’, I think they call it.
Thing is, as I see it, the only difference between now, and then, is that my chances of “dying young” are now reduced to nearly nil – and that’s good news, any way you look at it – and I plan to tell him so, the boy, just you wait… just as soon as he gets back from school, and I get this cast off of my leg. Young whippersnapper …smarty…smart aleck… dagnabbit.
The fact is, gamblers frequently have the same idea – that the law of averages will turn a run of bad luck, to good, or vice-versa, because of a string of losses, or wins, when, in fact, with every roll of the dice, the odds are exactly the same, which is to say, fifty-fifty, or sixty-forty, or astronomical, whatever the case may be. They figure they’re due. “Well, I’ve about used up my ‘bad luck’, things have got to go the other way soon.” When, in fact, every roll of the dice is a risk, or an opportunity, equal to every other. Same with death. It’s just a non-heartbeat away. So why be maudlin? Why be scared? I’m not. Not a bit of it – though I’m not craving the opportunity, by any means. I can wait. Awareness of Death, like my teeth, needs to be maintained. Brush those pearlys. Keep them bright. It’s a quality of life thing, for me.
Being fifty-seven today, my chances of sudden death are, more or less, the same as they were at thirteen, or three: approximately fifty-fifty. Those are odds I can live with. Notice the emphasis, on ‘live’. We’re natural born optimists, what can I say?
Of course, that doesn’t factor in the foolishness factor, for irresponsible and risky behaviors, which, too often, run rampant in teenagers, and begins to peak at around seventeen. That part of your brain, that can ‘foresee consequences’, I’ve read, doesn’t fully develop until you are about thirty. Needless to say, at the age of 57, no more jumping off of high places for me, and just expecting everything to be okay. I’ve outgrown the idea of being ‘bulletproof’, or of ‘immortality’.
I’m cautious just getting off’ the couch, these days. In fact, when the boy gets home from school, I think I’ll just ask him to bring me a glass of water. I sure am thirsty.
~ Tim Burchfield
• brush those pearly deaths •