A milestone passed – and a cry in the night

Well, there it is then, a 93-year-old marker already fading in the mists of yesterday as I set out on yet another unknown road hoping to catch a glimpse of the 94th about a year from now.
The last few miles (I’m too old to fully convert to metric) were not the easiest. Had a bit of a rough ride with my COPD – the disease with the trumpet sounding title Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – which should be enough to shake even the most avid smoker free from the tightest filter tip.
It must be three or four years now since my doctor listened to my breathing and asked if I smoked. “Not me. Haven’t smoked for more than 30 years.”
“Before then, how much?”
“Maybe two packs a day.” (It was often up to three but I didn’t think a one pack cheat would distort the pending diagnosis too much.)
“How long?”
“Can’t remember, a few years I guess.”
“That’s when you did the damage….”
“But it must have healed over the past 30 years…..”
“No.”
Which brings me to a few days before Christmas, hacking and wheezing like an old steam train with a faulty boiler, with boxes of chocolates and stocking stuffers replaced by handfuls of prednisone and antibiotics plus regular flourishes with “puffers.”
By December 27, the day to attend the milestone passing ceremony, the worst seemed to be over with four sons and partners in attendance. No snubs from the missing pair. They had both fled, or were preparing to flee, BC. Gathering the full clan of six sons with families is never guaranteed.
There was a solemn moment – for me – when I realized that three of the six are receiving “clawed back” OAP. A fourth is getting close. I must be getting old to have OAPs among those young lads I used to drive to rugby games every Saturday afternoon of their young winter lives.
They have more than repaid me in recent times whenever I have needed support for whatever ailed or bothered me.
I have been a fortunate man, not just with my strong and loyal family but with so many good friends made along the way. Those who sent me Facebook or e-mail salutations to mark the passing of the 93rd – thank you, especially to those not heard from for years who resurfaced with reminders of stories and experiences long forgotten and now re-remembered with joyful clarity.
They were all appreciated but none more than those from old journalistic rivals from the days when we fought hard each day to beat each other to a story and went for a beer together at day’s end.
Always competitive, never bitter. Always rivals; always friends – and remaining so.
I send that same measure of respect to the politicians – former and present – who could well complain about barbs thrown their way over the years but wrote instead to thank me for “being fair.” I don’t think I was always, but it was pleasing to be told.
Each year for many, I have ended my year-end musing with a few lines from Tennyson’s In Memoriam to “Ring out the old, ring in the new …. ring in the nobler modes of life, with sweeter manners, purer laws. Ring out old shapes of foul disease; ring out the narrowing lust for gold; ring out the thousand wars of old; ring in the thousand years of peace.”
Not much chance of that, you say? Maybe you’re right, but as Tennyson also wrote: “Oh yet we trust that somehow good will be the final goal of ill ….” while acknowledging, as do I at 93, “But what am I? An infant crying in the night: an infant crying for the light: and with no language but a cry….”
But, never without hope…

5 comments

  1. Happy Milestone Jim. Can’t understand why the smokes should still plague you after 30 years. I thought we replaced all our cells every two years. And I’ve read that all trace of smoking vanishes after five.

  2. ‘Always competitive, never bitter. Always rivals; always friends.’ — great line. I recently read a quote by Stephen King around writers. I think he was speaking of fiction writers but writers are writers.He said: “Writers remember everything… especially the hurts. The only real requirement for being a writer is the ability to remember the story of every scar. Art consists of the persistence of memory.” The story of every scar is a good line too. Continued health to you! I read your blog so keep blogging.

  3. As always, a very timely and reflective piece! Thanks so much for continuing to share your creative writing skills with those, who may have similar thoughts, but not the ability to so eloquently express them!
    Belated birthday wishes-we can only hope to reach this milestone!
    Happy New Year, Jim.
    Lorne & Nancy

  4. Happy 93 Jim. I have been a fan for many years and as a union representative have always found your comments fair

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