I am going to live to be 100 years old. I have to. Like the poet Robert Frost in “Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening,” I have “promises to keep.”
The first promise was to my granddaughter Jessica’s third- grade teacher. I was taking Jessica and her brother, Mark, to school because their dad was working, when Mark asked, “How old are you, Grandpa?”
I’ve never been one to keep my age a secret, considering each yearly advance a triumph rather than a liability. “Fifty-five,” I said.
Mark’s expression became serious for a few moments, then he asked, “How old will you be when I’m 55?”
From Jessica in the back seat came a resounding, “He’ll be dead!”
“No, I won’t,” I said, miffed at her light regard for my mortality, “I’m going to live to be at least 110.”
In the rear-view mirror I could see Jessica shaking her head. “No one lives to be 110,” she scoffed. (This was 31 years ago, before we geriatrics began to hang around seemingly forever.)
“Maybe no one has yet,” I said, “but someone has to be first, and it might as well be me.”
I thought that was the end of that particular conversation. But after I picked the two of them up at school to take them to their home, Jessica said, “Grandpa, my teacher doesn’t believe you.”
“Doesn’t believe what?” I asked, having forgotten what was said on our trip to school.
“She doesn’t believe you’re going to live to be 110.”
“Oh, yeah?” I said. “Well, you tell her tomorrow that I’ll show up at her classroom for ‘Show and Tell’ on my 100th birthday.” I thought it was prudent to hedge the last 10 years.
The second promise was to the seven other members of our “gourmet” club. Before we got to the point of having to be careful what we ate, each of us four couples used to host a dinner once a year in our separate homes. We would use a different country as a theme, tailoring food and drinks to that country’s typical cuisine. It was a lot of fun and we consumed some very interesting victuals over the course of time.
At one meal – I think it was Denmark – I had consumed a quantity of aquavit (it goes down like liquid smoke) when I announced that on my 100th birthday I was taking everyone out to dinner – on me. Since I hadn’t been the only one partaking, I assumed no one would remember my generous offer the next day, but I have been reminded of it many times since. We’re missing one member now, but the rest look astonishingly good.
So, you see, I have no choice. I have to live to be 100. And, because of the vanity inherent in keeping my promises, I have to ensure that I stay healthy enough to be able to walk into that classroom, not be carried, and that I have enough left of my retirement income to be able to pick up the tab for that centennial dinner, even if it mostly consists of Pablum.
Besides the necessity of keeping my promises, there is something really cool about being around for a century, if for no other reason than the magnitude of the changes I have already and will yet witness. Driverless cars, replacement organs produced by 3-D printers, smartphones that diagnose your ailments and forward the stats to your doctor … who wouldn’t want to be around to see that?
“Centenarian.” The word has a ring to it.