A fellow named Bill was passing through the city last week on some sort of nomadic journey in search of a memorable story, a good lay, and a poker tournament. He told me he wouldn’t stop driving until he found them all. His things were in Florida, but his mind was all over the place. He had a bunch of jokes to tell, and even though they weren’t so comical, everyone enjoyed hearing them because he enjoyed telling them. His eyes were heavy with history but glimmered with the curiosity of a child.
Bill was 75 years old.
I asked him what sparked such an adventurous voyage for a man his age. He told me that he had something terrible happen to him last week and had to get away to forget about it. His attorney made him write his living will.
How traumatic, I sympathized with him.
It wasn’t so bad, he went on, as I observed the lack of fear in his face about a topic that would make some people sweat bullets. Apparently the worst part was that his attorney had no booze in the office. I thought he was trying to kill me right then and there, he laughed.
So what did you do? I asked, as I anxiously poured him another glass of scotch.
What do you think I did? I ran to the corner store to pick up a bottle. There are some times when a glass of something on the rocks is just necessary, and if that ain’t one of them, then I don’t know what is.
Bill went on to tell me that he already knew the drill, though, since his partner had passed away early last year. I gave him my condolences for his loss, but he shook them off with a smile that knew his partner was ready. He was 85.
How can someone ever be ready for that, though? I asked. Even someone who is more than three times my age?
Honey, you’re never really ready to get out of here, he said in a pensive tone. All you can do is hope that you’re able to look in the mirror and love the stories your wrinkles hold.
Bill then recalled a conversation he and Frank had right before he passed on. Frank had been sick for a while and, according to Bill, was holding on for dear life, as they say, because he loved that life very dearly.
I had quite a life, didn’t I? Frank had asked Bill in the hospital room, seeking reassurance.
Are you kidding? Frank, you had about five lives in one.
And it was then that Frank nodded his head and told Bill that he was ready. He died later that week.
So to answer your first question, Bill concluded, I’m giving myself another wrinkle.
Bill was then summoned to the stage in the bar – it was his turn to do karaoke. He took another sip of his scotch and got up to sing some epic ballad that was way before my time.
Take notes, he yelled, looking back with a grin. I smiled and watched him sing. And even though he didn’t sing very well, everyone enjoyed it because he enjoyed singing it.
Joey Albanese writes about the twenty-something generation in New Orleans for NolaVie. Send him any questions or tell him the answers at firstname.lastname@example.org.