Yesterday was my husband's birth date. He would have been 87 years old, but he would never have lived that long. He died too early, at 45, but if he hadn't he wouldn't have lived for another 40 years. Twenty, tops. The men in his family were not long-lived. The men in most families are not long-lived. If they can get through the lethal corridor, the years between 40 and 60, Heart-Attack Alley, they can usually go on into their late 80s. I hope so.
The Twilight Years are pretty good if husband and wife are spared to each other. There is a lovely short novel, Age (1987), by Hortense Calisher (1921-2009 - age 97!), that I have re-read several times. Insightful and touching, the book keeps resonating with me. An aging husband and wife agree to keep a diary of their last years, without showing it to each other. Gradually one or both of them realize that only the survivor will get to read the other side of the last chapter they are living through.
"But isn't that what always happens? One half a couple has to go on, unread from then on." Earlier, she has asked, "Can we go on, in this state of going on?"
Here's an odd thing: I wrote the title to my blog (see above) before I thought of Calisher's book. Then when I pulled it from my book shelves, I found those lines I quote above, underlined. I also found a long note I wrote in response to the book when I first read it (August 30, 1998). I'll quote part of it:
"it's beautiful and terrifying and comforting - and oh, how, how it makes me miss Bill! Could we have borne it, each other's aging? Oh, my love."