Today, I have outlived my father.
In 1988, Grayson was born on Sunday, June 26. That Friday, July 1, my father and mother were going out to the car to bring Ginny and Grayson home from the hospital—I was back in Valdosta—when he dropped dead of a heart attack, 292 days after his 58th birthday.
Thanks to the miracle of iPhone apps, a quick calculation for 292 days after my 58th birthday gives us February 28, 2012. Yesterday. Today, Leap Day, I have lived longer than my father.
This factoid is merely that; it has no real meaning for me, no superstitious portent or deep emotional wound or anything halfway approaching metaphysicality. But when one gets to be a certain age, the hermetic elasticity of time exerts a fascination. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children, although my father’s mother certainly did (vid. sub.), so it’s entirely natural at some point in most people’s lives to look at their parents as figments of the past.
I often wondered whether I would “make it,” so to speak, given the genetics of the men in my family. My father and grandfather both developed diabetes and both died before they were 59. However, my father’s mother lived to be 99, dying of natural causes, and my mother just died at the age of 79 of cancer, so the genetic slot machine is just as likely to grant me another 20-40 years as not.
As I approached my 58th birthday last year, the fact that I was now ticking down to that metaphysical deadline was in and out of my thoughts quite a bit, but since then I haven’t really given it any thought. I’ve been busy. But last month I realized that I must be coming up on it, so that’s when I whipped out my iPhone and had Siri crunch the numbers for me. (Ironically, today when I asked her to do it again so I could confirm all the math for this post, she balked.)
As I said, it has no meaning for me, just a curiosity. It’s like the time about 15 years ago that my lovely first wife and I were visiting her parents for her father’s birthday, I think, and upon doing some math in my head I realized that we were at that point older than my in-laws were when we got married. Freaky, as the kids would say. Or would have said 40 years ago.
I thought about having a vigil out by the fire in the Labyrinth tonight and meditate on it all, but the weather has turned yucky. Perhaps tomorrow night, if things have dried out a bit. Maybe I can come up with some meaning.