Searching For That Best Time of Life

Chatting with a 91 year old…

The hard part in life is finding something that you enjoy doing, and that gives you the income to keep doing it. It seems to hold true that if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. You could also do a lot of things that you don’t really enjoy doing, even mildly hate, in order to save money for later on when you’ll get to enjoy it, but even that is a trap in some sense because everything keeps costing more & more in today’s world.

The key is to enjoy living your best life today.

I eat dinner every Wednesday night at the local VFW. Last week it was Tony’s 91st birthday. I quickly thought of a good question to ask Old Tony. So I asked; Ay Tony, What were the best years of your life? He didn’t want to answer, he kept telling me about all these horrible years of his life. How his father came to America from the Azores Islands penniless and with No education. He talked about fighting in the “Big Wars”, I’m not sure what wars Tony fought in but it sounded really rough. He’s kind of a cantankerous old man born in 1930.

Finally when I pinned him down, he thought for a long while and he gave his answer.

But let me back up. Tony drives to the VFW and walks in and eats all on his own. Tony has his wits about him, can hear me talk fine, but when he talks he randomly speaks quite loud as if yelling. Totally at random, he’ll be talking all quiet and then mid-sentence he’ll say the rest really loud. But most of the time he sits quiet, eating by himself. We’ve only recently begun to chat, he seems to have taken an interest in my 2 year old. When he looks at my son its one of the rare times I see Tony smile and get excited. He sneaks my son french-fries.

He was sad this last Wednesday, because a friend of his died recently. When he began to describe who it was I was shocked that I too know this friend. In town he was known as Texas Rick. The man was a local legend. He would run karaoke at the Local Saloon on Friday nights. He would play all these old country classics and he would get up and sing himself if no one else wanted to, But old Texas Rick got ALS, was still running the karaoke machine up until a month ago. He recently stopped speaking and they had a farewell/birthday party for him and he died just after the party. He did what he loved to do right up until the end. It seemed Texas Rick was enjoying life to his final moment.

Tony himself was a journeyman by trade, a sheet metal worker, a proud E Clampus Vitus AKA Clamper (one of the few sober ones), And supposedly he built the VFW years ago, one of the few local places you can still get a hard drink in town. Tony was going on and on about the hunnys that come to the karaoke to enjoy some drinking and singing. He seemed to still enjoy watching the hunnys drink and sing.

I used to think the City was diverse, but now I have a different view. There’s a lot of charm in rural America, and diversity too. I don’t mean the kind of diversity you find in a city. The urban areas are all multicultural and all, But in the City it’s the same Starbucks next to the same hipster bar, next to the same gay club. Sure, the businesses keep changing, some more frequently than others, the homeless encampments get moved, but it’s the same tall buildings, the same loud subway systems, the same smells. The same desperate search for living, the same fleeting chase & run from the alternative named death.

In a rural area, the diversity is across generations, it spans across time. You can meet all sorts of people from different backgrounds, from different times and places, and you can have a real conversation with these people, in a place that has remained pretty much the same for a generation or more.

In a city, The diversity is; in which order did the Fortune-500 companies arrange their storefronts and which local McBillionaires started their own hipster boutique in between. The diversity is; from which far away country or land did the workers come from to assemble in this capitalist paradise known as the city, all to do the same type of work, the same type of living, day after day. Of course mixed in with some social programs to ensure that the homeless keep coming and that the city not get too nice, otherwise it might more look like an old European feudal city. I can’t believe how much more beautiful Petropolis Brazil or Morelia Mexico look when compared to my homeland of good ole America.

The Diversity of Death.
In a rural area you also see much more diversity of life…
And death…

I’m sure all the times I’ve spent in cities there were plenty of people dying around me but I didn’t know them or see the death that much. Since I’ve moved to a rural area, I can think of a few people that I’ve personally met and had a beer with at the saloon who are now dead. And animals as well; dead goats, dead dogs, dead rattlesnakes, dead coyotes… I must see more death out here in one season than I did my whole previous lifetime. In the city you’re insulated from the dead rats and the dead people. The city is geared towards youth and vibrancy, and clearing away the bodies and wiping away the filth post-haste.

Out here in the Country nature slowly clears away the dead debris without any aid of man. Day One it’s the vultures. Day Two the coyotes and mountain lions and bobcats. And after a while you’re down to the skin and bones… Which usually stick around for at least a season.

Acknowledgment of death is healthy, evading that reality is not healthy. Perhaps it is time to take stock of your life and stop evading the inevitable? How exactly would your dead forbearers look upon your life? Do you think your Great Grandpa would look down on you and be proud of your achievements? Did you surpass his?

What exactly were the best years of Tony’s 91 long years of life? What were the best times that he enjoyed the most?

When pressed hard Tony relented & said “It was the time I spent raising my Son”, with a glimmer in his eye, you could see this was his proudest and happiest achievement in his time on this Earth.

-Jesse Dustin of The Unists &

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