Fifty Six and Counting

I once heard someone say that if you make it out of your fifties, you have a good chance of living past eighty. I first heard this when I was in my forties, so it felt academic and not particularly ominous. But now, at age fifty-six, I am haunted by these words.

Another friend died on Saturday. Another woman, in her fifties. The third one. All died from cancer that started somewhere else – the womb, the colon, the liver, but ended in the lungs. All died within months of the diagnosis, after brutal surgery, massive chemotherapy and blistering radiation.

I am fifty-six.

My husband is fifty-eight.

He too will be happy to make it out of his fifties without having a heart attack. While the women I know have died from painful, decaying and horrific cancer, the men I know who have not made it to sixty have had massive heart attacks – the kind the doctors call “widow makers.” Sudden and massive and complete. My father in law had a heart attack at age fifty nine, while playing cards. My husband’s best friend’s brother was struck down at fifty-eight while playing golf. And his look-alike and basketball teammate collapsed while running full court ball in the over 45 league at the JCC. He too was in his fifties.

I do not know what to make of this.

I am fifty six.

My husband is fifty-eight.

At Sharon’s funeral today, her husband railed against the oncologists that had caused her so much pain near the end of her life. He eulogized her by reciting Byron’s To Thyzra: And Thou Art Dead

I know not if I could have borne
To see thy beauties fade;
The night that followed such a morn
Had worn a deeper shade:
Thy day without a cloud hath past,
And thou wert lovely to the last –
Extinguished, not decayed,
As stars that shoot along the sky
Shine brightest as they fall from high.

Her husband and children will never see her grow old. She will never know the grandchildren who will be named in her blessed memory.

Meanwhile, I wait and count.

Fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine………………………….

Marsha Pincus

Marsha Pincus is a post-mid life woman, riding the Age Wave and writing for her life.

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