I just polished off an excellent brandy; that's like the gasoline for my muse, if and when she cares to speak to me. I know this is cliche, but I can honestly say that I never expected to check the box for 80. In June of 1995, the University of Washington Medical Center docs had me filleted like a damn carp. It seems that some fifty years of pounding down triple cheeseburgers and cooking everything in bacon fat caught up with me. They snatched a vein from my lower leg and started bypassing four different arteries to my heart. I almost bought the farm.
We'll never know whether it was just me or someone screwed up, but I had a major bleeding problem, and after the first six hours on the table, they dragged my drugged ass back to the operating theater to open me again and find the significant bleeding issue. Our UW family doctor at the time said I had an almost complete change of blood from transfusions meant to replace what I'd lost. She said I probably came as close to dying as you can and still live to tell the story. I had no idea what was happening; I was unconscious for 24 hours or so. I woke up in the ICU feeling like a truck had run over me. It wasn't pain; there was very little of that. It was like my entire body was in shock, which makes sense considering all the shit that had happened to it.
Moving on, I went home for recovery, which was six-to-eight weeks; I don't know what it is today. What I can tell you is that I was as depressed as I've ever been in my life. I was 52 years old with a severe scar from my sternum to near my navel and one on my leg where they highjacked the vein. I was weak as a kitten and could barely walk to the bathroom and back without taking a nap. Fifty-two fucking years old, and it looked like my life was over. It took me a couple of weeks to get over feeling sorry for myself and get back to rebuilding my body, such as it was, short and stocky, and getting on with life. That September, for my 53rd birthday, Gale took me to Rovers, a top-notch French restaurant known for picking your pocket of your next mortgage payment. And, as we were and still are wont to do, we partied our asses off with fine food and wine. I think our bill was $600; in 2022, that would be about $1,097.55. We justified it by deciding we were celebrating my resurrection.
Here I am at 80. Oh, they also found I had a bicuspid aortic valve, a congenital disability that can result in having a valve replaced. So far, mine is doing okay, although slipping a bit. So, I'm motoring on. I've joked about trying to outlive everyone before me. I'm on the cusp. My paternal grandfather lived to be 81; everyone else checked out earlier, so I'm on a record-setting pace.
Which brings us to what? Fucked if I know, but I think I'm supposed to say some sage shit here. What have I learned in 80 years? A lot, and probably nothing. I've learned a lot about myself, but not a lot that I can pass on to others. From day one, I never had a plan for my life; I just tried to make good decisions as the crossroads came along. I succeeded sometimes and failed a lot of times. I've done okay by most measures, but I could have done a hell of a lot better if I'd been more focused and more ambitious; all that shit they say when talking about people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates; that wasn't me. Whether genetic or conditioning or a combination of both, I wasn't driven. I didn't have big dreams or aspire to own my own company or buy a freaking boat.
I grew up in a boys' home in Omaha, Nebraska. I've been married twice and had a prolonged affair with a Mexican woman with five kids. My second marriage seems to be working out if 50 years counts for anything. I had a car fall on me when I was 19 and lived. I retired from Boeing after almost 25 years, and Gale and I have traveled to Europe several times. I'm not going to tell you my life story here. If you want that, it's in my autobiography, Almost An Orphan, My Life, Step by Misstep. That's available at Amazon, and you can find it on this site by clicking on "Book Store" on the navigation frame on the left and following the link.
They say life is what you make it, and to a degree, that's true. But life is also a crap shoot; you never know what lies around the next turn. If I were to give some advice, it would be to stay adaptable; flexible with the changes. Keep a sense of humor. Enjoy the good stuff in life, and don't focus on the bad shit; it will find you all on its own without you looking for it. Try to be kind to others; I know that can be hard when they act like assholes, but try. Don't be too full of yourself; we are no better or worse than any other creature walking, crawling, flying, or swimming around this planet. Some religions keep trying to convince us that we are gods, but we are not. We are part of a massive Ecosystem and universe; all we can do is play our role in the whole thing.
I'm pretty sure I've disappointed everyone with this bullshit, but if I were a guru after 80 years, you wouldn't be getting this shit for free; you'd be paying me a lot of money for my wisdom.