Dying young


My mother is in a nursing home and the doctor just gave her six months to live. But when he found out she couldn’t pay her bill, he gave her another year. Last night after spending some time with her, the thought hit me, If I stay in peak physical condition, I will live long enough to be a drain on the medical system. And so I have uncovered three ways to ensure this does not happen.


1. Change your diet and exercise habits. I exercised for the last time today. Retired my sneakers. My light weights. My pass to the exercise room. The resolve began when an acquaintance of mine dropped dead of a heart attack. When I thought of the last time I saw him alive, how he was waddling over to the Twinkies aisle in the supermarket, it hit me like a runaway grocery cart: die eating.


And so tonight we will order out for pizza. And Chinese food. After the Meals on Wheels people leave. Besides, if God had wanted us to lift weights, He’d have made our arms heavier. And if I develop flabby thighs, it’s not a problem. My stomach will cover them.


2. Have more children. Children are messy and won’t let you sleep a wink. Having children is like installing a Nascar track in your head. It’s noisy. Besides, the average male child costs roughly $3.4 million (in Lego alone) by the time he is eight, and you can double that if you have a darling little girl who steals your heart. Oh sure, they start out cuddly and they giggle, but don’t be fooled. They are here with one thing in mind: getting you off the planet.


Grownups have always been suspicious of children. I realized this when I was very small. They told us smoking was bad for us, knowing we’d try it out and maybe get hooked and die. They covered my crib with lead-based paints. There were no childproof lids on the aspirin bottle, no seatbelts, airbags or guardrails. They encouraged us to ride in the back of pickups or build our own go-carts and parachutes. We ate worms and mud pies. We played with BB guns and smashed rocks with a hammer and no goggles. They never offered us bike helmets or bottled water and they introduced us to things like monkey bars.


I was just a wee little kid when they encouraged me to play ice hockey. They strapped blades on my feet, handed me a sharp stick and something called a puck. They pushed me out on the ice, then stood behind plywood sheets and wire mesh to see what happened. When we started having too much fun, they’d yell, “Kill him! Kill him!” I knew what they wanted. They wanted me dead. They knew I was a threat to a long and peaceful life.


So have more children. It’s not too late. If you’re a little older, think of Sarah and Abraham. Or of Satyabhama Mahapatra of India, a 65-year-old retired schoolteacher who recently gave birth to a baby boy, becoming the world’s oldest mother. Satyabhama and her husband have been married 50 years, but this is their first child.


3. Travel to exotic places. I recommend a honeymoon in Iraq or cycling from Beirut to Jerusalem. Pack light. Carry explosives.


Okay, I’ve been joking and hoping all the while that you wouldn’t write me a letter before you read the conclusion.


Here it is: I want to die young…as old as I can.


I think we stay young by keeping our sense of humor in tact.


By not wasting time listening to gossip. By eating ice cream nine times a week. By inviting friends over to dinner even if the carpet is stained and the sofa faded.


I think we stay young by centering our thoughts on things that are pure, lovely, and of good report. By putting our arms out car windows more often. By burning expensive candles before they melt in storage. By getting so excited about the love of Jesus that our teeth can barely keep up with our mouth.


So tomorrow morning I think I’ll pull out those sneakers and the light weights and the alfalfa sprouts.


You’ll be happy to know that, unlike Satyabhama, we’ve decided against having children anytime soon. At least until we find a nursing home with a kindergarten attached.


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