Fountain of Youth

I’m reading a book about a group of scientists who discovered the so-called fountain of youth. I say “so-called” because it wasn’t a fountain, it was an injection of a substance that prevented telomeres from malfunctioning or wearing out. From what I understand, telomeres are a compound structure at the end of chromosomes that keep the long strands of DNA from getting tangled during cell replication. When they malfunction, you get cancer. When they wear down, you grow old. Apparently, if there is a way to keep telomeres at peak performance, you won’t get cancer, won’t grow older, won’t get any of the diseases of old age. You wouldn’t be immortal, of course, since you could die from any number of other causes, such as car accidents or non-DNA-related diseases. And I suppose you’d have to be especially careful of yourself to keep from being like the women in the movie Death Becomes Her.

Although it was an interesting premise, the story breaks down because the only way this group of exceedingly smart “immortals” thought of to keep their eternal youthfulness from being discovered is to find younger doppelgangers every twenty years or so, kill them off, and take over their identity. Ignoring the immorality and illegality of such a drastic solution, there would be myriad problems, such as fingerprints not matching. (I almost didn’t get my driver’s license renewed because my thumbprints didn’t match. They finally figured out that the previous thumbprint was printed at the tip rather than the meat of the thumb like the current print.)

It reminded me of a novel I once planned to write. I’d have to check my notes to find out why this particular character didn’t age (I think it had to do with a project they were working on that killed everyone else in the lab and left her unable to get older), but I do remember the first scene. She’s in a stall in a restroom while people she knows are primping at the mirror and talking about her, something to the effect of, “Who is she trying to kid? All that makeup she wears doesn’t fool me. She’s nowhere near as young as she pretends to be.” The character in the stall realizes it’s time to move on because the truth is she is trying to hide her age. The heavy make-up is to make her look older rather than younger.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Mostly I’m wondering if such a serum were available, would you take it? Would you want to be eternally young? To live forever, or as forever as possible?

I wouldn’t, though to be honest, I wouldn’t mind finding a true fountain of youth. I wouldn’t drink the water, though I might bathe my cheeks to plump them up (I don’t mind my wrinkles, but the crepey skin on my cheeks is sort of creeping me out.) And I’d like to bathe my legs in the water to keep them young, but for the rest of it, not so much.

In a way, I’m viewing the experience of aging the same way I now view grief. Although grief was utterly painful and angst-ridden while it had me in its grip, I’m glad I had the experience. It was way beyond anything I could have ever imagined, way beyond anything I’d ever read about. I tend to think aging is the same. As long as a self-aware person retains her ability to think and can process what she is thinking and feeling, it could be (and is) interesting to see some of the changes — not just physically but mentally and emotionally.

Besides, I think eternity could be utterly boring. I mean, what do you do with eternity? It’s the same thing I’ve wondered about when it comes to after-death eternity, though with pre-death eternity, at least you have a body to do things with, emotions to experience, things to see and hear and taste, but after a while, all things pall.

Even more than that, either you stay away from people entirely and miss out on the joy of love and friendships, or you remain alive while everyone you know and will ever know ends up dead. All that grief would be too much to handle, and if it isn’t, if one can lose and keep on losing without ever being affected, would life be worth living?

I guess I’m lucky in that I won’t ever have to make this choice, though in a certain sense, I make it every day because every day I do something to try to improve my life, my body, my mind. As far as I know, that’s all anyone can do without having access to a fountain of youth.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

My Take on the World

People who have blogs generally stick to one topic in order to develop a strong readership. I started out that way, concentrating on books and writing and the various aspects of promotion, but after Jeff died, my focus changed to grief. I didn’t really have a choice if I wanted to continue blogging since grief became my life. Besides, I was so shocked by what I was feeling, shocked that I didn’t even know it was possible to feel that way, shocked by the insensitivity so many people showed toward grief, that I felt compelled to tell the truth. Then later, as my grief started to wane, I wrote about my travels. Now, I write about . . . whatever. The topics range from grief to home ownership to gardening to books to aging.

The problem with writing a blog with such a wide range of topics is that every topic has its followers and every topic has its detractors. For example, those who wish me to focus on grief aren’t really interested in my ruminations on other matters. Some people think I should write more about aging since aging, like grief, is rather a taboo topic in our eternal-youth oriented society. (There’s something almost embarrassing about growing old, as if its our fault that we don’t remain young.) Other people, of course, think I talk too much about growing old.

I suppose it would be nice to have a single topic, and just post once a week on that particular topic, but I’ve done grief. I don’t really have much more to say about it. And I’ve done traveling as a topic, and now I’m pretty much done with traveling itself since I spent my traveling money on my house. Although I sometimes mention the books I’m reading, I don’t want to have a book blog. Writing reviews and critiques seems so much like writing book reports for school, and I never much liked doing that. I read, I think while I’m reading, I finish the book, and immediately start another. What else is there to say?

I really don’t want to talk about age, though it is a focus right now since I’m trying to age-proof my yard. And I can feel changes in myself — not just physically and mentally, but how I view the world, other people, and myself. So it’s hard not to let those things filter into my writing.

Basically, I really only know one subject intimately — me. And that’s what this blog has always been about — my take on the world around me and within me.

Is there a point to this particular piece? Probably not. It is fair warning, though, that the topics I write about will continue jumping all over the place. You don’t need me to tell you to feel free to skip any post that’s not to your liking since I’m sure you do it anyway. But I do need to say (it can’t be said enough!) that I appreciate your stopping by to read any of the things I write.

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What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

When the Ugly Duckling is Just a Duck

A couple of women in dance class today were talking about aging and how it was an adjustment when they no longer turned heads. Not a problem, they said. Just an adjustment.

SThese women are still lovely, and I can imagine they were real head-turners when they were young, but not everyone has that same experience. For some of us, the adjustment was not learning we no longer turned heads, but accepting the knowledge that we would never would turn heads.

The lure of the ugly duckling story looms large in girlhood. I suppose even the pretty girls long to be a swan, unable to see until — perhaps it was too late — that they’d been swans all along. (In the case of the two women in class today, they might in fact have been swans of the Swan Lake sort since both had studied ballet for many years.)

I’m long past the moment when I realized this ugly duckling would never be a swan, long past the days I wondered what it would feel like to be a head turner. There is something to be said (though I’m not sure what, hence this short post) for being an ugly duckling that grows up to be merely a duck. There is beauty in that, too.

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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.”)

Grief and the Empty Timeline of Death

Route 66My life mate/soul mate died 33 months ago. He was 63 at the time, a few months shy of his 64th birthday. Today, his mother called and during the conversation she mentioned that he would now be 66. This revelation stopped me in my mental tracks. 66?

During all these months, not once have I ever stopped to calculate what his age would have been had he lived. It felt as if time stopped when he died — not all time, just his time. And yet, his time continues. The timeline that began with his birth is still going on. When she mentioned his age, I got the mental image of a shadow of his ghost continuing to ride that timeline. Not him, not his spirit (because if he does still exist somewhere, he is outside of time) but simply the shadow of what might have been.

Normally such a thought would have swept me back into grief, but this image (at least for now) has me befuddled.

I’ve been thinking of him as 63 years old. As such, he is still older than I am, but I’ve been wondering how I will feel when I get to the age he was when he died, or later, when I grow older than he ever did. Will I feel foolish as a raddled 86-year-old, still yearning for such youthful-looking man? (The only photo I have of him was taken when he was not yet 50. And as my memories fade, that will be the only image I remember him by.)

And yet, there is his continuing timeline. What is growing older? Well, me, of course. I am aware that I will continue to age, but he will be forever a relatively young 63. Yet something — some shadow of him or his life — continues to grow older.

Or is his just an empty timeline now?

I spent most of last night learning how to use Microsoft Movie Maker and putting together a video blurb of Grief: The Great Yearning. The music piece was supposed to be thirty seconds, and it was, but there were also seven blank seconds on the end of the music clip, so that when the video finished playing, the timeline continued blankly for another seven seconds.

Perhaps it’s the coincidence of the two blank timelines that unsettles me, but I truly do not know how to grasp the concept of his empty timeline. He can’t continue to age, and yet his birthdays will come, year after year.

The emptiness of it all makes me want to weep; yet strangely, I am dry-eyed.

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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+