Expiration Dates

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 Expiration dates, we all have them in our DNA. But Best Used or Enjoyed By MM/DD/YYYY aren’t stamped on our neck, back or elsewhere to be read in the mirror. 

Before selling our house in Sacramento last summer, we purged a lot of stuff that we stored behind all the doors of closets and garage cabinets. You know, that stuff you just know you’re going to need the day after you throw it away. Odd screws, nuts and bolts; camping equipment unused for a decade; stupid award memorabilia you only see when you get the urge to clean out the garage but you don’t have the heart to throw away. It’s as if you are throwing away a memory.

Moving helps cut to the chase. If you don’t sell it or throw it away, you’re packing it,  moving it, unpacking it and re-storing it at your new location. But the easily packed stuff still finds its way onto the moving truck, and the boxes get stacked in the garage or the “guest room”. The final decision to throw out or pass on to others is postponed. Old photos - even the really bad, out-of-focus ones, family ‘history’, stuff that really has no intrinsic value unto itself other than sentiment. It’s a by-product of having been raised by depression-era parents. 

The idea for this post came from my running across my parents’ last drivers licenses and seeing the “Expires on Birthday” part. They both expired before their respective licenses, which is normal, when you think about it. 

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In my fathers case, his last license was issued shortly before his birthday in 1978 when he was just 56 and it was set to expire in 1982 when he would be 60. 

Now, no one likes their picture produced by the DMV, but as I looked at my father’s image with 20/20 hindsight, I know that colon cancer had him in its sights. He looked worn down. A lot of life had happened to him by then: WW II and marriage to my mother; college with one and then two kids; a move across the country away from his boyhood home and family; a series of drafting/illustration jobs in the aerospace industry and then; the long, slow grind-down of a creative person working in State government.

I have to believe that if he’d been open to something like a meditation and yoga practice, and the cancer screening available today had been available then, he’d have lived to see his granddaughter. And possibly his great-grandson. Maybe. Just maybe.

I had other reflections on those dates. In 1978, I was still in college, a little under a year away from graduation. The extended undergrad plan...no job prospects on the horizon, just living college life, my sights set firmly on myself.

I remember visiting my parents during college and watching Dad fall asleep in his recliner, wondering how much longer he would live and how it would be when he was no longer around. I had no clue then, none of us did, that his cancer had started. Dad looked much too old and tired for someone that young.  

At the time, I had no inkling of what life changing events would come my way in the next short four years: I’d move away to Los Angeles, get engaged, marry, lose my job and my father to colon cancer a month later; and return to Sacramento.

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Mum’s last license was issued at the end of the last century,  which sounds so, so long ago. It was 1999.  By then, she had been the Widow Webster for 17 years and was 75 years old in her photo.

During those 17 years, I became a father, bought and sold a couple houses, divorced, changed jobs, remarried; and helped Mum to downsize her life.

Mum had a couple of boy friends during that period, but in her heart, I knew she was still married to Dad. She continued to wear her engagement and wedding rings. I’m not sure if it was habit, loyalty or because he was the longest relationship of her life. The romantic in me wants to believe that deep down, she was still in love with with him. Or she thought it gave her a direct channel to him when complaining about my sister and I at his gravesite...I hope it was the former rather than the latter. She did the latter anyway. Weekly.

 Oddly enough, I never wondered what it would be like when she was no longer around. Three short (retrospectively) years later Mum was gone too. Buried in the same plot as Dad. He was cremated,  and, since she “...didn’t like the idea of being burned...”, as in life, she got top billing, being laid to rest over Dad.

What started my musing on this was seeing the issue and expiration dates, the pictures of my parents on their respective licenses, and how we all have these forms of identification. They have issue dates and expiration dates. Most of the time all we think of is the hassle of obtaining these necessary pieces of plastic that fill our wallets. And how long (or short) a period it will be before we have to again go through the hassle of renewing them.

Maybe we should think about, and document, the Life and Events that happen during that period. And, like Carrie Bradshaw in a closing scene of “Sex In the City”, ask ourselves: “Is this the last time I will be go through this sucky process?” “Will My expiration date be sooner than is stamped on this document?”

If we ask ourselves those questions, scary and morbid as they sound, we will appreciate WHAT we have, WHEN we have it. And live like we may not sooner than later.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Six Three. Or, Remember To Be Grateful.

“They” say getting old ain’t for the faint of heart. “They” are correct.

I’ve been noticing things about my physical self lately. Muscle tone is lacking. Skin is getting crepey at various appendages. My hair thinned out long ago and my beard is almost completely white.  

I don’t have a problem with the last two things and the muscle tone can be fixed by me getting off my ass and practicing yoga and other forms of moving ones body. 

The crepey skin is kind of a genetic thing and since I didn’t start to moisturize when I was in my 20’s, I guess I’ll just use lots of sunscreen. 

What’s bugging me now are a couple of things:  the trip home from my travels to Belize caused a common condition (though not to me) in my ankles when we got home-edema and resulting raised red spots on my ankles, shins and calves. We were on two separate flights for about seven hours plus a two hour drive from Los Angeles to Palm Desert. The swelling went down two days later and the spots in about two weeks. Never happened to me so I was worried. And pissed. Feeling old.

Next, I discovered bursitis a week or so ago on my left elbow. A swollen area also known as Popeye Arm. Fuck. Now I’m really a cartoon. What next I muttered to myself.. The bursis isn’t painful, just a sign that I either whacked it at some time, or it just decided to pop up. “...a common occurrence in older males...” The only time I remember hitting it was easily two months ago. Why it didn’t show up then is unknown. Again, never happened to me so I was worried, pissed, and feeling old. My next birthday on the horizon didn’t help.

Fast forward to Friday, March 9th. Birthday Eve. I’m sitting on a jury panel for a criminal trial. Based on past experience of actually being on a jury once and sitting in the jury box but ultimately being “thanked and excused”, I figured, hoped actually, I’d be sent packing. The jury I had served on back in the 80’s was a similar case and we’d been hung. The latter was a violation of a restraining order based upon child custody. Since I’d had a custody modification made within the time period asked on the questionnaire, I was cut loose. Yay! Jury service done! 

I also have a life-long friend in law enforcement. He’s a former CHP Commisioner and a current Chief of Police on the east coast. I hoped dropping his name might set me free this time. What I didn’t have in my favor for not serving  were, a.) no economic hardship and b.) no medical issue. I’m retired, so I have all the time in the world and despite my whining above, no real health issues keeping me from doing my civic duty. I really had no interest in sitting through this trial. The crime had been committed nearly 4 years before (based upon an article published in the paper that morning), and despite our system of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, I’d kinda made my mind up about the defendant’s guilt. This decision was fleshed out a little later when we found out how many witnesses would be testifying regarding the arrest portion of the case. I know, not very open minded of me, but it’s how I felt.

When the random picking of names began to fill the jury box, I was conflicted. Part of me wished to be called right away,  figuring I’d be cut, and my service would be done. The other part hoping I’d remain anonymous. The first round was called and I was still in the gallery. That meant the judge would hear everyone’s story, the two attorneys would question them and then decide who to cut.

What I had forgotten from my earlier times on a jury panel, were the shear number of people touched by crime. Some really violent, heinous crimes. For some individuals, multiple occurrences of murder, robbery, beatings, and sexual assault either to themselves or immediate family members. And some were either law enforcement themselves or had multiple family members who were. Others had serious, life threatening illnesses. My whiny-ass complaints held no water in comparison. 

The day wore on. After our return from lunch, the process of elimination began by the prosecution and defense attorneys adjourning to judges chambers. It turned out they discussed which jurors to eliminate during their chat. This really sped up the selection process. Four people from the box were eliminated, replaced by a couple of alternates. Then came time for more names picked at random. I figured my time was up. Nope. I still had not been picked.  Then it was time for a break. At 3:00 p.m., I figured they’d be doing more questioning and eliminating more people. By my seasoned eye,  the time of day, and the pattern of questioning by the attorneys, there were at least two more in the jury box and three more in the alternates to be eliminated. We’d all be coming back on Monday for more of the same. Damn.

The attorneys and judge did the same thing as before, came back and “thanked and excused” five more prospective jurors. Those of us remaining on the panel held our collective breaths. But not for long. The shuffle in the jury box and slide into positions from the alternates had satisfied the legal team. The jury was sworn in and we were free to go. An audible sigh of relief came out of us.  We all filed out of the courtroom, down the stairs and outside. The quiet, adult version of kids running, screaming out of school at the beginning of vacation.

So what the hell is this post about? 

Its about gratitude. Realizing that my health is good, minor complaints notwithstanding. I live in a beautiful location, close to other beautiful places and have all that I need to do more than just survive. My time is my own. I have family and friends who love me. What more is there? 

Absolutely nothing.