Health

The Number of Good Years We Have Left to Still Be Us

Next month I’ll be loading up a big-ass motorcycle and heading out west. The question is, how long will I get to keep doing things like this?

Barring a catastrophic, and as yet undiagnosed, medical condition or event, researchers estimate that it is plausible for me to still “be with us,” as they say, for another 25.98 years. Give or take. This would get me to the ripe and, yes, old age of 82, just a couple months shy of 83. Not nearly as much as I would like (there’s only a 25 percent chance I’ll reach 91), but, hey, I'll take it.

The figure that really interests me, however, is the one that my friend Larry and I like to refer to as “the number of good years we have left to still be us.” This calculation, as you might imagine, is a lot harder to get a grip on.

And yet we try. All the time.

Just the other day, in fact, after my wife and I had returned from a week’s escape to the Florida Keys, my friend and I were at it again. I’ll admit to being the instigator this time. Vacations to places that I enjoy only make me think about all the places that I haven’t yet been to. Which gets me to wondering whether there is adequate time left to fit them all in.

“I made some rough calculations on the flight home last night,” I emailed Larry after I was back at my office. “Even if Joan and I took two trips a year, which isn’t very likely, that’d only be 20 more places over the 10 'good’ years I got left. Ain’t nearly enough. Fuck me.”

I have been friends with Larry for nearly 30 years now. We are the same age, in similar and pretty good health, and rarely do we not see eye to eye (except for that Steely Dan thing he’s had going on forever, which I long ago decided to diplomatically ignore).

However, on this particular subject, we part ways a bit. Larry, who is generally the more pessimistic of the two of us, turns out to be way more optimistic than I when calculating those precious years we get to “still be us.” Specifically, he thinks I am shooting way low at 10 years — and by a factor of 50 percent.

“Still think we’re talking more like 15 decent calendars, dude,” he shot back, moments after receiving my post-vacation correspondence. “Of course, what the hell do I know?”

The hell, indeed.

To be clear, “the number of good years we have left to still be us” is not an ambiguous concept to my friend or me. Not by a long shot. It’s all about being able to move freely about our lives, physically and mentally. We just disagree on how long our luck is apt to hold out.

In our mid-50s now, we’re slower on our feet than we used to be. However, and to use just one more dopey metaphor to make an important point, we both have plenty of fuel left in the tank. Larry just packed up and moved clear across the country to begin a whole new chapter in his life. He’s got a great new job, a beautiful new woman, a dog, the works.

I’m not starting out over again but I am about as active — and as risk-seeking — as I've ever been. Later next month, in fact, I’ll be loading up a big-ass motorcycle and heading out west to ride the deserts and mountains and valleys of Nevada, Arizona and Utah. In monsoon season, no less!

Thing is, neither of us is dumb enough to believe that things aren’t about to change. And very likely in a hurry. Even Larry admits that his estimate of 15 “good ones” is “a big maybe,” because that would carry us into our seventies. Hell, I’m not so all-fired sure about just getting to the 10 good ones either.

I’ve seen enough guys run out of steam in their sixties to scare the crap out of me, especially now that I’m almost there myself. Add to this the fact that both Larry and I suffer from MDGSWIWHDSGYS ("My Dad’s Genes Sucked Which Is Why He Died So Goddamn Young Syndrome"), and you can see why we might be a little on edge about our future prospects. After all, we’ve already outlived our fathers, and scoring decades more than them just isn’t something either of us ever thought would happen.

We’ll take it, if it comes, of course. Just so long as we can “still be us” for most of the ride.

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