A good friend of mine, Gordon “Parky” Parkinson, from Kansas City, dropped into my office some time back and, as usual, we got into a very interesting discussion. We got to talking about age, the passing of time, and how it affects different people.
Parky told me about a family with which he was familiar who seemed to live under a curse. Every member who seemed to live under a curse. Every member of the family died right at, or close to, the age of fifty. Everybody in the family knew about this strange condition which plagued them and, right on schedule, between forty-eight and fifty-two, each of them would keep the record straight by dying according to tradition.
Everyone, that is, except one.
This one, a boy, left home at the age of sixteen. He lost contact with his family; he didn’t know he was supposed to die at fifty and he’s still going strong today at eighty-seven! He’s already thirty-seven years past his deadline – no pun intended – and, when he learned of the strange curse that was supposed to afflict every member of his family (and had except for him), he was seventy-nine. His first reaction was sorrow that his relatives had permitted tradition and superstition to so shorten their lives and then he chuckled and said, “I’m grateful they didn’t tell me about it.”
I know of a family like this one out west. They’ve got the same tradition and they’re sticking with it. One male member of this family is now just about fifty and he lives in constant dread. Every bodily sensation he experiences he magnifies out of all proportion and feels his time has finally come.
With this attitude, he won’t last long.
My friend Parky told me that he had made up his mind to live to be one hundred years old. By living to be one hundred, he could watch the progress, change, and interesting panorama of an entire century pass before his eyes. He’d get full mileage from his time on earth and, this is the part he especially likes, at fifty (which is just about his age right now) he’s still a kid only halfway home.
And do you want to know something? I’d be willing to bet that he makes it.
People have a way of doing exactly that which they make up their minds to do and not much else.
Doctors and insurance company actuaries will tell you that, if you want to live to be a hundred, be choosy in selecting your parents. I don’t doubt there’s a lot to what they say, but how much of it is a matter of genetics and how much a matter of emulation?
Ever since I was a kid, I remember my mother and father talking about the fact that all their grandparents lived well into their nineties. Both my mother and father are still going strong and how much of it is due to the fact that they don’t expect to shuffle off until they’re as ancient as Galapagos turtles? I’ve picked up the same idea and passed it along to my kids.
There’s a limit to age, even elephants, turtles, and parrots finally shift gears.
Nobody expects to live forever, although there’s a legend about one Count St. Germain who keeps popping up again and again through the centuries. I think a whole lot of people could live to be a hundred if they made up their minds to do it. At forty, they’d be youngsters and at fifty, well, reaching maturity you might say. At eighty, they’d still have a couple of long decades left.
Alcott said: “While one finds company in himself and his pursuits, he cannot feel old, no matter what his years may be.”