A Ritual of Resolutions and Risk-taking


Morning, readers.  I’m obliged you came by for a visit.

Today marks an event I never expected to see.  Old Sol’s about to light things up, shake his head and shrug when he looks down and sees I am here again, come spang around him one more time.  Sixty-nine times I’ve gone around him and come to this same spot, tipped my hat and said hi.

Here’s the reason neither Old Sol, nor I, had any reason to expect this:

Back in the late 1970s I had occasion to spend some time looking around nursing homes.  I managed to do it enough times and look them over closely enough to convince myself that we Americans haven’t kept our eye on the ball when it comes to living and being alive.

The people in those nursing homes are alive, but they aren’t overjoyed about it, and the life they’re living only has in common with actual life that the bodies and food are warm.  The caretakers roll them back and forth or they hobble between television sets, meals, games, then through the long hallways filled with the forever odor of urine, back to their rooms.

I did a lot of thinking about why that happens, those mass coffins for the living.  Of one thing I was certain.  I didn’t want it to happen to me.

The reason, I decided, people end up in those places is because they live longer than they’d have expected to, wanted to.  The reason they lived so long was that they took all kinds of measures to make certain they did, increasing the intensity and focus as the years built up on them.

Every year those elderly reduced the numbers and kinds of risks they took.  They watched their diets, quit doing things they enjoyed when they were younger, many barely did anything at all as they reached into the advanced years of retirement besides a golf game or sea cruise.

And they got what they paid for.  Lives that endured long past anything a person would call living.  They sidestepped and hid and and ran from Death, and he didn’t find them when he was supposed to.  So now they sit around strapped into wheel chairs watching rolling television screens paying the price for being too worried about dying when they were still alive.

That’s when I came to an important conclusion about how I wanted to live my own life.

From that time until now one of the rituals I’ve tried to perform around birthday time and New Years Day involves examination of the physical risks I’m taking now, and how I’m going to increase them during the coming year.  And how I’m going to stay as far as possible away from do-gooder, busybody medicos and CPR-knowers sticking their noses in my living experience getting me cross-wise with Death.

How I’m going to be out there when Death comes looking for me, in a place where he can find me, doing something I love to do.

Old Jules

Loudon Wainwright– High Wide and Handsome

98 responses to “A Ritual of Resolutions and Risk-taking

  1. Hi Jules,
    It looks like a congratulation is in order, doesn’t it? So: happy birthday.
    I hope I’m not mistaken.
    And definitely a congratulation is in order re your attitude towards life and getting older. I really admire you! I like this posting a lot.
    Take best of care, and enjoy your days the way you want them to be,
    Pit

  2. Jules, thanks for taking a peek at my novice blogging…I haven’t had time to read yours other than this one about living and dying, and I thoroughly related…and it comes at a good time for me….blessings!

  3. Hope you have a happy and quasi-dangerous birthday, Ol’ Jules..!!
    Enjoy it sir..!
    Bigfoot

  4. Happy Birthday Old Jules! You’re looking good!

  5. As a caregiver myself, I hear you. People talk about 100 being the new 70 and I quake with fear. Let me die timely and with my feet still under me. When it’s my time, I only hope to accept it gracefully and with no regrets.

    • waltznmatildah: I’m gratified you came by. I don’t know much about a hundred, but I’m going to try hard to get used to 69 for as long as I need to. More if that’s how it plays out. The regrets thing is a matter a person probably needs to handle a day at a time keeping it all straight and level so’s there’s no buildup when it’s too late to do anything about it. Gracias, Jules

  6. Happy Birthday Jules. 🙂
    Hope you have a wonderful day!

  7. Happy Birthday and may you enjoy it (in your own well-chosen words) “with precisely the amount of risk you wish on yourself.”

    A nursing home, to me, would be hell one earth, so I understand this completely.

  8. Hi Teresa Evangeline: Thank you, thanks for the visit, and have yourself a fine one to the extent you measure such things out to yourself. I appreciate you. Gracias, Jules

  9. Happy Birthday, Mr. Jules. I hope this next year brings you all of the adventure and risks you want. (I’m being thoroughly selfish here, I suspect, because I’m guessing those adventures and risks will turn into more of your superb storytelling…)

    So much elderly abuse take place in “nursing homes” these days Such sorrow. I have promised my mother that I would do everything humanly possible to make sure she never ended up in one. She’s 79 and still full of “it”, and I can’t imagine her going out that way.

    My father died the way he wanted to…sitting at the kitchen counter at home. We had just spoken on the phone, and I will forever be grateful for that opportunity, as our conversation ended as it always did by exchanging “I love yous”. He died of a massive heart attack while my mom was upstairs talking on the phone to me. Was dead before he hit the floor.

    It’s a shameful thing the way our “advanced” society throws away our elderly when they become a burden or an embarrassment. I can see why a hospital would be necessary for medical reasons. But too often, I suspect, people go to nursing homes because they are unwanted.

    If I ever live long enough to be unwanted, I hope I find the courage to make my own way out of this joint. LOL

    Anyway…happy birthday again. Sorry this was so long.

    • Hi Janese: Thanks for the good wishes and I wish them back at you. As for elderly abuse, heck, I suppose there’s plenty of abuse around in the world for some of the elderly to have some spill into their lives. Others are driving their RVs from Wyoming or Minneapolis to Tucson every year for golfing. I’ve some personal doubts such things can be generalized, but that doesn’t exclude nursing homes from being one of the ways it can happen. I’m obliged you came by. Gracias, Jules

  10. Happy Birthday Jules – and may you have as many more as life feels good about giving you – or you feel good about giving yourself!

  11. I turned 69 last March. Glad we’re still around to send and receive birthday wishes.

    • Fearguth: Congratulations. By golly if you and I die the same day you’ll have snagged several months of extra life over what I did. How’d you manage that? Always good seeing you. Jules

  12. If we could for a moment forget that it was an act of war, I rather liked the image of Slim Pickens riding bronco on that bomb casing in Dr. Strangelove. I have no idea how long I’ll remain spry enough, but I hope something else catches me before the nursing home police do.

    • Hi Ed: That Slim Pickens ride would be hard to turn down if offered, whatever the circumstances. And getting to drive a B52 to the even would be an offer someone best not make me. I don’t need that kind of temptation. Thanks for coming by. I hopes you as much survival, escape and evasion of the nursing home police as you wish yourself. Gracias, Jules

  13. Glad you made another year. If you want to confuse the kids of today, tell them you were born in the first half of the last century. 🙂 They’ll never figer it out, Thanks to our wonderful education system, lack of teaching.

  14. Birthday Salutations, Ol’ Jules! Your post reminds me why I’m here. I worked with the elders in nursing homes for 10 years as a social worker. I like to think I made a difference, but like you say, nursing homes are huge coffins for the living. We Oldsters have something to contribute, even if it’s just our disconcerting presence. Blessings to you!

    • Hi destrudowoman: I’m gratified I never had to work in a nursing home, but not overjoyed anyone has to. I think you probably made a difference if you wanted to. Here’s hoping you a fine afternoon and evening. It’s been a good one here and I don’t mind it spilling out and getting where you other folks are. Gracias, Jules

  15. Happy Birthday and have a beautiful day Jules! 🙂

  16. This is one of the best posts I have read on WordPress….of course coming from me…not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. This post obviously comes from a being that has lived and continues to do so. Wisdom and insight shared expecting nothing in return.

  17. Staying out of nursing homes does seem to follow the natural order of things. I wonder if anyone ever actually plans on ending up in one.

    However you feel about it, I’m personally glad you’ve been alive so long. The Y2K/New Mexico adventure we’re on is one of my favorite parts of my own life. Here’s hoping Death doesn’t get any more fanatical than he needs to be.
    Best wishes
    Andrew

    • Hi Andrew: Yeah, it was a pretty favorite part of mine, too. Glad I had an opportunity to spend some of it with you and your family. Death can do whatever he wants if he wants my approval, so long as he tends his affairs and doesn’t go off on drinking binges and fishing trips. I try to not be too demanding on him. Gracias, Jules

  18. After spending some time as a C.N.A., i determined (and years later shared the belief with my children) that it is much better to die happy than it is to live long.

    Awesome post!

  19. The Good Luck Duck

    May all the returns of the day be happy ones.

  20. Happy birthday from me too dear Jules! You make me happy I whish you happy too!

  21. t, Good Luck Duck and Anita: Thank you. Jules

  22. Hey Jules,

    Happy Birthday and thanks for stopping by my blog. I love what you’ve written here and am with you all the way! Part of my gratefulness at this time of year is finding your blog!

  23. I am so glad I read this… you did me the favour!

    This post surely says it all

  24. hi old jules, thanks for finding my blog so that i could find yours! great post, every word worth saying … we have a wonderful old adventurer come to live with us at 92, and only a few months to live now …no nursing home for him … independent until now …still going to the gym and playing bowls and driving his new car until a few months ago …. now he is getting to know gmail, putting in all his contacts and sending emails …. yes, no hiding from death, way to go!

  25. Sir, your attitude is one I greatly admire. Be ALIVE while living. How hard should that be? But it is, for many. So I think your commitment to do so willfully and thoughtfully and joyfully and radically–that’s all got to serve the goal a whole lot more admirably than just lying back and letting life pass over you. Enthusiastic cheers from me on your birthday and all that you will accomplish in this living-out-loud mode of yours in the years to come. However many they are, they oughta be mighty rich!
    Kathryn

  26. Thanks for stopping by my blog this morning, Jules, and happy birthday! I haven’t had time to read many of your posts yet, but I like your style and I can already tell that you and I have a few things in common. I’ve lived in both West Texas and New Mexico, so many of the place-names in your posts are familiar, raising memories both pleasant and uncomfortable. At 52 I’m still shaking up my life, taking risks and reinventing myself, and hope I never lose the desire to do so. I’m a bit more familiar with aging, the American health care system (so called), and death than many of my peers, having helped both parents and my only sibling navigate those waters. Also spent a couple of years running a wildlife rehabilitation center so I was involved on a daily basis with helping non-humans achieve a “good death” and saw how much more humanely the process is for creatures who make it to a wildlife rehab center than for those who find themselves in nursing homes. My blog reading time is limited, but I’ll stop by from time to time to see what you have to say about making the time here count for something more than adding to some insurance company’s Medicare-generated income stream.

  27. Jules, your attitude toward life is admirable. Every day is a blessing; it’s up to us to make the most of it. Glad to see that you’re doing so, and writing about it in delightful detail. May you enjoy many more years embracing life on your own terms.

  28. I like the way you think. The last place I ever want to end up in is a nursing home. I don’t ever want to look back and wish I’d done something. I never want to say, “I wish I’d done….”

  29. I really enjoy your writing and yes, I agree. I want to come skidding in sideways and end with a bang! Thanks also for visiting my blog. I will definitely be back & looking forward to reading more of your posts. Great stuff!

  30. Hi Jules – Thanks for reading my probaway.wordpress.com blog post “Zebra fish to the rescue of your cholesterol clogged arteries.”. Most people live life with the enthusiasm of their teenage years if their blood is flowing perfectly. For example, last week a normally active friend of mine woke up feeling rotten and his wife took him to the hospital where the doctors opened a clogged artery with a stent. He felt perfectly fine in a few seconds. That is a primitive and desperate way to open an artery. The Zebra fish experiments will probably result in everyone’s arteries getting cleaned out more normally with simple treatments like taking antioxidant containing foods like Concord grape juice, or perhaps a special pill. I’m 76, blood pressure 120/70 and feeling great. As soon as I hit the send button on this email, I and my wife are hiking up the 500 foot Pilot Butte, here in Bend, Oregon, to check out the view. Keep your arteries clean and you probably won’t end up in a nursing home any time soon.

  31. Enjoyed your thoughts on life. We have to stay away from those nursing homes and doctors, and keeping busy with travel and friends is one of the best ways I know…with a little help from natural remedies. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leading me to your site!
    Gypsy Bev

  32. Better to wear out than rust out – happy birthday!

  33. I got a bad ticker. A small planet floating around in my head. Doctor’s sticking cameras up my ass. And a Flemish wife. Life doesn’t get any better.

    • Hi David. I’m obliged you came by for a read. Interested in swapping the ticker, the head and the cameras for a Toyota and some dead trees? I might throw in $50 Dell computer if I like the planet in the head thing. Thanks for coming by. Jules

  34. Like it! Many good returns around the block!

  35. Pingback: Tofu Tidbits* 12/1/11 « Tipsy Teetotaler

  36. Very cool post with all the right noises. I’ve spent a life messing up and I’m carrying on deep in the French countryside.

    • Hi Roger. Glad you came by. We mostly all spend our lives messing up, I reckons, and trying to figure out ways to stumble forward in the forest without hitting any more trees. Helps keep it interesting. Gracias, Jules

  37. Happy B’day new friend: your words remind me of a joke I once heard:
    I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather.. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
    🙂 Keep on keeping on

  38. You have the right idea, Keep kicking and screaming, this rides not over yet! I’m 65 and I will die right here, at MY home, not in some god forsaken Old Folks Home!

  39. Howdy sir,
    You’re the first real cowboy I ever met online and I like your down to earth philosophy. Keep om kicking.
    poch

    • pochp: Thanks. I’m not a real cowboy, but I am online and kicking. Real honest to goodness sure enough cowboys would be somewhere recovering from hangovers and trying to count how much money they had left today, and whether they’d picked up a dose of some STD last night. Gracias, Jules

  40. Thank you for visiting my blog and subscribing to it. I hope I don’t disappoint too much. This past weekend I celebrated my birthday, too. At 57 I’m glad to be alive and kicking and loving my new grand baby every day. I agree about nursing homes. I’ve tried talking my mother into the really posh one that I found in Alvin. But she won’t go, she wants to die just where she is – living independently. Unfortunately the 911 calls are becoming more frequent and she’s gotten cross-ways with her jewel of a caregiver. My house is all steps so she can’t live with me and my brother’s wife says “No Way.” So generally I just let each day pass as it does without too much drama and hopefully nothing cracking or breaking. Keep on with what you do. I love your posts!

  41. Love your attitude! Sometimes I want to just say “screw it,” eat the burger and fries without guilt, and proceed living the way I like to live. It’s not easy – every where you turn someone’s telling you that something – actually anything – you do is bad for you. Love your blog and I’m so glad we connected.

  42. Fascinating take on life, when he comes knocking make sure you tell him to wait while you blog about it!

    • Gilly: Thank you. I’m figuring when he comes knocking I’ll arm wrestle him a bit, maybe challenge him to fisticuffs if he thinks he’s up to it. I’ll try to work in some blog time afterward. Gracias, Jules

  43. Just a little further down the road from y’all. My only regret is the same as David Crosby’s. If I’da known I was gonna live so long I’d of taken better care of my teeth.

  44. Love the blog! Thank you for visiting mine! My grandma lived to the ripe old age of 95. Never went into a nursing home. She lived in Asbury Park, NJ, and she walked everywhere, dressed up as a bag lady so no one would bother her as she walked ranting in Yiddish! She told me once that when people asked her how she lived for so long she replied: “I never read a label in my life! I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted and did what I wanted.” And she did! I owe a lot in my life to what this wonderful lady taught me! For me, when death comes to me I want to look it in the eye and laugh knowing that I have lived life to the fullest in spite of what others have told me I should do and not do to stick around longer!

  45. Thanks for reading my blog. Had I know it was your birthday, I’m sure we would have thrown a party. Happy belated birthday. I’ll be back to read more.

  46. Absolutely fantastic story on aging, how we treat an aging population, and appreciating life.

  47. I love this post. What a beautiful way to live your life. Age is an expectation, nothing more. I am forty, my back should start hurting soon. I am fifty, my eyesight should start to go soon. I am sixty, my sexuality is going to start becoming an issue. I am seventy, my hips are going.

    Could it be they are all only self-fulfilling prophesies?

    I am love, today I will feel good. How old am I? Good question, can’t quite remember…

  48. Good God Jules, you can’t bow out yet, it took me twenty minutes standing in line just to comment!! poo now i forgot what i was going to say!! c

  49. Howdy! Thanks for liking my blog. I certainly enjoyed this post – well-thought and cleverly written. Looks like you have quite a following – congrats! 🙂

  50. I spent some time today looking around at your posts. I liked this one in particular as I never want to live in a nursing home. I don’t think you can believe all that the doctors tell you as I am not convinced they know absolutely what they are talking about. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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