a meeting of backwards ages
A 72-year old man named Jim
Tells me he is a 42-year recovering alcoholic
He’s sat next to me on the plane and we chat
And we chat
And for the next 3 hours, we chat
And I don’t ask many questions
before he tells me how
in the last 3 years he’s
had a heart attack,
a kidney failure,
a kidney transfer,
(his sister gave him one of hers)
How he’d been through months of dialysis and
if his kidneys fail again,
he’ll choose to ride it out next time.
No need to extend his lifespan
at this life’s time.
And just 7 months ago
his son died from a head-on collision
His neck broke; it was instant.
For that, he utters:
God is merciful,
between one bout of tears.
All through this,
his dear wife
who’s sat next to him in the aisle seat
had been the primary caregiver for her mom
who also died last year.
But now that Jim is turning up on his health
she can take care of her own (what a woman).
The wait is on, four months
And with this all, she says
We’ve still been very blessed.
At some point she asks me how old I am.
Oh we’re the same age, she exclaims, but backwards!
And on the last string of my giggles,
I wonder how my backwards age will be.
And what I would share
To a person at the window seat
With half a century
Of their unmade stories in between us.
Would they need to have an inquiring mind to know me,
Or would I be aware enough of my mortality
To just talk their ear off
Like Jim had done with me, so generously.
In his AA meetings
Gratitude Days arrive
And he tells me how each time
He can’t help but think
I’m grateful it wasn’t me
Waking up on the bathroom floor anymore
Walking into the middle of the street anymore
Getting run over
Like someone in town had
He says between tears
I’m grateful it wasn’t me.
42 years sober
What led you there in the first place
Genetics and Depression.
And six months into marriage
His wife told him he’d have to quit
Or she’d have to quit and leave.
But how do you quit a disease
He said, She was a bit naive when we met,
I was a social guy, life of the party
And her quiet, reserved nature liked that about me
But she didn’t like that he could drink a 60
and still be well to drive.
AA changed everything
Gave him a special purpose to his life
Speaking and role modeling
Seeing the current lives,
the would-be lives,
the could-be lives,
of those in his same place 42 years ago.
42 years sober since
(And recovering), he says,
Because you’re always recovering.