06 July 2011

We are young

It's always been interesting to me how the process of high school or college leaves such a meaningful and indelible mark on some people's lives. So many I've known over the years want to return to those times the way others seem to want to return to the womb. I respect their feelings, but I don't understand them, really. Both those epochs as well as graduate school were stepping stones--frequently fun, frequently not--and vitally important to how I got where I continue to go, paths to knowledge, but means for me, not ends in themselves.

Every few months, we get little magazines from our various schools. The spouse generally tosses them aside with a sneer, but I'll glance through them to read about what's what. I always find it a little funny, a little sad, a little puzzling to see how things have changed and stayed the same, how people continue to delineate their experience, how they testify to its import still in their lives. Today, though, I was shocked, once again, to read of the death of a classmate. She was a year older than I am, and was not someone I knew terribly well, and eventually was lost to the mists of time and the natural attrition in acquaintanceships when what you shared--a college--has been left in the past.

Still, the news troubled me. I've lost many friends and former classmates in the last few years, mostly to illness, a few to accident, and it feels as though we are far too young for this. We are in our 40s, what is supposed to be middle age.

A few years ago, we got word from the wife of one of the couples we've known for eons, who've been our friends for years, that her husband had had a major stroke--at the age of 47. He was an active man with no real risk factors, and his life was saved by the fact that he collapsed in a group of people who recognized what was happening and got him medical help immediately. He made a full recovery, for which we were profoundly grateful, but even now, the thought of how close we came to losing him forever sends a little chill down my spine. Their kids are of an age with ours, one a little older, the other a little younger, and I cannot picture their family without him.

I'm no stranger to the cascade failure of the corpus, though I consider myself quite healthy, and I continue to live a very active life. Funnily, I find myself reassuring my doctors sometimes when they look at me, faces lined with concern, as they say, "You're too young..."

Go listen to some music: "Love is a Battlefield" from the album Best Shots by Pat Benatar. Studies are increasingly documenting the rise of the diseases of old age in younger people. Type 2 diabetes and stroke both are becoming increasingly problematic, hitting people as young as their 20s. Good reason to maintain a healthy diet and an appropriately active lifestyle.

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