Living among too many of my age who have died

The death of two men I've known, one my age and one just a year older, bring thoughts of the limits of life.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jimmy Buffett after one of his shows in the St. Louis area back in the 1970s. It was evident then, as it was right up until his death last weekend, that he was an entertainer who enjoyed his life tremendously.

His smile and laugh was contagious. He eyes stared directly at his interviewers and he didn’t hedge in his comments or observations.

“I’m a lucky jerk,” he said. “I’m doing what I love to do and it also pays me very well for it.”

Buffett, who died from complications of skin cancer, was 76 when he died. Another public person of my past, former Congressman and ambassador Billl Richardson, died over the weekend at age 75 — my age. Losing two people I’ve met, interviewed and knew, at my age, brings a sense of mortality.

Richardson almost beat Congressman Manuel Lujan in a New Mexico Congressional race in 1980, a big GOP year when Ronald Reagan swept many members into the party with his coattails. Lujan’s close race caused his campaign consultant to hire me to help run his communitcations in 1982 and Richardson was running for a newly-created set int he state. I got to know his manager and him during the race and we remained friends afterwards.

Since returning to Floyd County in 2004 after nearly 40 years away, pursuing mostly a career as a newspaper reporter, columnist and photographer, I have attended too many funerals of former classmates and friends. Most of them, with the notable exception of my mother and good friend, omrer APCO public relations executive Don Johnson, were younger, Some 10 years or more younger in age.

Buffett’s death from skin cancer reminds me that our family doctor has referred me to a dermatologist at Carilion Clinic for testes on some places on both my arms and on my head. I had had several operations for removal of basil cell cancers from parts of my body since returning to the county 19 years ago.

I spend a lot of time in the sun and don’t always use sun block. My bad.

At age 75, I am fewer than five years away from the average age of death for my generation. My wife is five years younger and we both feel the pain of age. Severe arthritis limits my ability to type, a curse for a writer, and limits my range of motions for use of a camera in photography.

My hearing loss had me using headphones to hear testimony and other conversatons in court. Doctors who have examined my hearing say it can only be cured by surgery and it is not covered by Medicare supplemental. Same for cataracts in my right eye.

“If i had known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself,” wrote English author and playwright W. Somerset Maugham. That same quote has been used by Mickey Mantle and others. Perhaps I should use it as well.

Satirical songwriter Tom Lehrer wrote a song about Alma Gropius Werfel, a woman who loved and even married some of the most creative men of her time, including designer Walter Gropius and writer Franz Werfel. He ended the song with: “The body that reached her embalmer, we one that knew how to live.”

Amen.

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse