Who Wants to Live to Be Ninety-Six?

I don’t want to live to be ninety-six, and chances are you don’t either, so who wants to live to be ninety-six? Ninety-five year olds, that’s who!

Today is my father’s ninety-sixth birthday. He’s one of the lucky ones. He is still living in his own house with a daughter (me) helping keep him independent.

We get along well for the most part, but he doesn’t understand my sense of humor. He asked me the other day if it was normal for someone his age to sleep so much. I said, “I don’t know. Most people your age are dead.” In the long drawn-out explanation that followed (I meant only that most people don’t live to such an advanced age), any vestige of humor was lost.

A couple of my brothers will be stopping by for a small party. There will even be cake, but without the candles. Can you imagine the heat generated by 96 candles? Or how long it would take to light them? Besides, blowing them all out would probably kill my father and bring the festivities to an end. And anyway, that whole tradition of having someone blow on a cake before you eat it is unsanitary at best.

In case you’re wondering, 96 years is 35065 days.


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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

Standing Tearfully on the Cusp of . . .

My fourth book, Light Bringer, is going to be released later this month. I thought this would be an auspicious time, a time of endings and new beginnings. March is the two-year anniversary of my being published, it’s the anniversary of my birth, and it’s the first anniversary of my soul mate’s death. What I didn’t take into consideration is how emotional this month would be. I mean, I’ve had almost a year to get used to his death. I should be over it by now, right? Apparently not.

After his death, I told myself, “If you can just get through the first month, you’ll be fine.” I wasn’t. So then I told myself, “After the third month, you’ll be fine.” The months passed, and I still grieved, so I told myself, “After six months . . .” And, “after a year.” I’m nearing that first anniversary, but I don’t seem to be completely shedding my grief. Grief follows its own time. It will not, cannot be rushed. Even worse, I seem to be keyed into this same month last year — the final month of his life — and I feel as if I’m counting down to his death . . . again. The big difference is that last year I did not give in to emotion — at least not much and not until the end. His care was all that mattered. Well, I’m feeling now what I didn’t feel then. And just like last year, nothing I do can make him well.

This will be my first birthday without him, and oddly, it saddens me. We didn’t celebrate our birthdays. Sometimes we acknowledged them, sometimes we didn’t, but they were no big deal, just a change of numbers, so I’ve been wondering why this birthday troubles me, and tonight I figured it out. This is one of one of the big 0 birthdays, the one where you can no longer fool yourself into thinking you are still young (even the actuarial tables acknowledge this one as a major change). And here’s the kicker: my mate and I will not be growing old together. There will be no walking hand-in-hand in our twilight years, no reminiscing about our youth, no helping each other overcome the infirmities of age. “The end” has been written on our love story.

If that weren’t enough trauma for one month, Light Bringer is his memorial — his funeral service, obituary, epitaph — all rolled into one. Perhaps I shouldn’t imbue the book with such significance, but it is the culmination of two lifetimes of study — his and mine. It’s the last book he helped me edit, the last one I read to him from beginning to end. Once the book has been launched, it no longer belongs to us — to him and me. It belongs to anyone who reads it. And so one more piece of him will be gone from my life.

I’d hoped to be able to give the book a good send-off, but it’s hard to think of fun, innovative ways to promote when I’m constantly reminded that he won’t be here to help me celebrate. And it is something to celebrate. (Heck, I’m even going to celebrate my birthday!) So, here I am, at the beginning of this auspicious month, standing tearfully on the cusp of . . . what? I don’t know.