How near is your End?

For several days in November, after he turned seventy, Stew grew glum and picked up the annoying habit of starting sentences with “I’ve been thinking…” without ever getting to the predicate.

Thinking about what exactly?

Apparently Stew was bothered by visions of a Piper Cub flying overhead pulling a banner that said “The End is Near. Do Something!”

Watch for this guy flying overhead

The End, as in a guy wearing a hoodie, carrying a scythe slung over his left shoulder—and hanging around outside the kitchen door.
A friend cleverly mapped out the three stages of The End: The “go-go years,” the “slow-go years” and finally the “no-go years.”

During the first period, roughly during your sixties, you pretend you’re not aging even as wrinkles resolutely march across your face and your hair, if you have any left, turns gray.

Nevertheless, you stay in youth hostels and carry a backpack when you travel, as if you had graduated from college three weeks before.

After your seventieth, the clues are harder to ignore. Youngsters at the hostels grumble about your getting up to pee three times a night and holding up the foxtrot to Machu Picchu’s Gate of the Sun, complaining your knees are killing you.

For their part, women at this stage might resort to age-inappropriate clothing that provokes more giggles than desire.

Other signs of the second stage are that friends do nothing but talk, talk, talk about their latest visit to the doctor. Exotic and sometimes ridiculous treatments come into play—ayurvedic herb potions, ozone shots, and acupuncture in odd parts of the body.
Anything to try shoo away the guy with the hoodie.

At this point, people who’ve never traveled beyond Guadalajara unexpectedly sign up for yak caravans along the Silk Route or month-long cruises in the Caspian Sea.

Others, known for obsessively counting their pennies and revising their wills, now say: “Screw my relatives! They’re not getting my money!”

When the third stage arrives, maybe on your eightieth or eighty-fifth birthday if you’re lucky, you keep track of Costco sales of bulk quantities of Depends. Travel is reduced to ordering new batteries for your scooter so you can cruise around Wal-Mart for hours, buying nothing in particular.

Here in San Miguel, people sign up for the Twenty Four Hour Association, a group that indeed will haul away your carcass within hours, cremate it and FedEx the ashes back home—as if anyone there cared.

Probably not. Remember, you cut everyone off your will before taking off on your yak adventure.

I’m not worried about any of this stuff.

I don’t turn seventy until December 30. I still have two-hundred thirty-six days left before the second stage kicks in.


14 thoughts on “How near is your End?

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I am in my mid-sixties, and the realization that I have a finite number of years left has hit me. That is why I am traveling like a crazy person while I am still able. Carpe diem!


  2. Anonymous

    I'm at a contemplative stage (no-know-go?) where one finally accepts that mortality is real– an actual, inevitable appointment with the hereafter– and feels an urgent desire to adequately decipher what the heck this life experience was all about. David Wilde


  3. That's a tough assignment. Looking back as a learning experience, so you don't make the same mistakes, is a very useful effort in planning your today and your tomorrows. Regrets and would-have-beens probably not so constructive. You can't rewind the camera and reshoot the scenes you don't like. Good luck. Thank you for your


  4. Five years ago it was us doing the foxtrot to the Gate of the Sun that I mentioned in the post. Twenty- and thirty-somethings flying by while we struggled. Very depressing. Now I would look at the Gate from a distance and call it a day. al


  5. You guys are just “spring chickens” with nothing to worry about. Remember as Wayne Dwyer said, “Guilt never changes the past and worry never changes the future” I agree with you bout the Gate of the Sun. Heck, I wouldn't even take the trip!


  6. Anonymous

    Life has its rewards and failures. Reading the obituaries every day and not seeing myself there is a pleasure. Sadly, I see a lot of folks that I knew at one time. Most were younger than me. I will miss them, but some of them I won't. Time marches on.Robert GillPhoenix, Arizona


  7. Anonymous

    Well, I'm only mid-50's, but it's starting to hit me to, this idea of bodily decay and then death. Perhaps it was due to the passing of my stepfather over Christmas, or maybe it's seeing my mother become a really old lady. But something's happened. Also, I still have a young-looking face, but I've only started to notice that my neck is getting wrinkles, and my arms don't look all that youthful either. Aaaaaaccckkkk!!! And now I'm stuck in Redding! How can I possibly chase 20-something Mexican guys from here? Now you've got me definitely worried. Thanks,Kim GRedding, CAWhere it's a neck-in-neck competition between angst and boredom.


  8. Dear Kim: You're getting wrinkled and saggy, eh? You're not the first one. Don't know what you look like, but Paul Newman didn't age too badly. Old, yes, but still good-looking. As for May/December hookups, check with the Macrons, the new arrivals at the Elysee Palace in Paris, and ask them how they manage. al


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