“But the days grow short, when you reach September”
— Maxwell Anderson, “September Song”
The other day, someone sent me a link to a calculator that would tell me how long I would live.
Yessir. All I had to do was answer some simple questions about lifestyle. Questions like: do you smoke? (no); do you drink? (yes); do you exercise? (not enough). There also were some questions about family — is there a history of diabetes or cancer? How long have your parents lived? — and questions about stress, such as, are you married and do you worry about finances, that sorta thing.
I immediately doubted the validity of the whole undertaking, for it did not ask if I had a teenage daughter (yes), a son in college (yes) and dogs (yes, yes, yes).
However, I answered the questions anyway because at the very moment the link was sent to me, I was especially aware of the toll time had taken on the lad I once was. You see, the calculator’s appearance coincided with the commemoration of my 70th birthday — no presents please, unless it is something that is liquid, brown, bonded and bottled in Kentucky (see above).
Of course, if you consult the Holy Scriptures, which I occasionally do, you find that if you are my age (see above), you have pretty well exhausted your allotted time on this earth.
“The days of our years are three-score years and ten” — Psalms 90:10.
Now, if a “score” is 20 and 10 is, well, 10, that means my 70 years are about all I am allocated and I had better consult my legislator-funeral-director-buddy Koven Brown on something other than whether he is going to support the homebrew bill.
However, the psalmist cuts me a little slack when he/she adds: “… and if by reason of strength they be forescore years.”
That suggests to me that if I take care of myself, I might stretch it out 10 more. (This is what I like about the Bible. If you aren’t happy with what it says in one place, you can look around and find something in another place that will calm your concern. Sorta like Protestantism, though I am not ready to take that on right now.)
But the Bible also has a way of slapping the reader with reality, for the psalmist concludes the verse:
“Yet is their strength, labour and sorrow;
“For it is soon cut off and we fly away.”
Reminds me of the story comedian Woody Allen tells about the two women discussing a recent visit to a local restaurant.
One says: “The food there is terrible.”
The other adds: “Yes, and the portions are so small.”
That, Allen says, is life — pain and suffering and over too soon. Seems like he and the psalmist are on the same page.
But back to me, which is my main concern in this.
Though I like the Bible — especially the one I have beside me now, a King James version with Jesus’ words in red — I am not a biblical literalist, especially when it comes to Psalmists, who I consider pretty good poets and above-average philosophers but not necessarily conduits for God’s word. But what do I know?
Only that I am 70 and have just calculated how long I am going to live.
And, according to the calculations of the calculator, I should make it to 93, which was my father’s age when he died.
So now I can start planning.
This means that, if all goes well, I might see my son finally graduated from college and maybe, hopefully, gainfully employed. I might even get to accompany my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day, though she has pointed out on numerous occasions that I will likely need a walker.
I might even get to see Republicans get their panties unwadded over Obamacare and Democrats quit having a hissy over Rush Limbaugh, neither of which will destroy the Republic as we know it.
Look, y’all, in my 70 years I have watched this nation survive Nehru jackets, Tiny Tim, disco, the electric slide and Richard Nixon. If nothing else, I have a sense of historical perspective, and folks younger than I (which are most of you) should pay attention to what I have to say.
Which gets me to my point.
If the calculator is correct and if no fatal misfortune befalls me, you dear readers have just more than two decades to glean from me the wisdom and insight I have accumulated while I was accumulating these years.
So take a number and get in line, for as “the days dwindle down, to a precious” I may forget it all, and where would you be then? Without, that’s where you’d be, without.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson III is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.