Sunday, July 14, 2013

Taking Bets

I threw away another AARP invitation. Ever since I turned fifty a year ago, they seem dedicated to making sure that I am enrolled in their program. The one that consists of all kinds of discounts to this and that, and that insurance. Such a deal. But what would I be doing in a group called the American Association of Retired Persons? I'm still working for a living, after all, with an emphasis on both the living and working parts.
It was only after the envelope drifted down into the recycling bin that all that worry welled up inside me. Sure, I'm alive and working now, but what happens when I'm no longer able to take care of my family in the manner to which they are accustomed? I had visions of my son setting aside his school books and heading out the front door to his job at the mill. My wife untied her apron and hurried along behind him, on her way to a double shift removing rivets at the flange factory. If only I had been more proactive. They would be sipping lemonade by the pool and smiling wanly at my framed photo just inside the cabana.
Wait a minute. Is the only way my family can get a pool by which they can sip lemonade is for me to A) buy plenty of insurance and B) croak off in an unfortunate and untimely manner? I'm not sure I want to get into that sweepstakes. I've already been the beneficiary of the insurance game. When my father died, my lovely parting gifts were some random personal effects and a down payment on a house. No matter how many times I play that tape back, I believe that I would much rather have a few extra years with my dad than the house. It's not a choice I get to make, however.
The circumstances of my father's passing make a great story. How he cheated death way back in his thirties by missing a chance to fly with his boss in his small plane. That plane crashed. That was the reason my mother refused to put us all on another small plane when we were all stuck in Mexico City with no way to get to Acapulco after Braniff dropped us unceremoniously in a foreign speaking land with only my older brother's junior high school Spanish to support my father's wild gestures. Years later, my father and I flew together in a small plane to the Orange Bowl. We made it to and from safely, even if we were disappointed by the outcome of the game.
It was that same small plane that would eventually take my father's life. I suppose in some cosmic way I feel responsible for part of that plan, since he made a trip to see my wife and I in Oakland and nearly made it back in one piece. That's when gravity took over. If only he had the presence of mind to insure against the way the earth sucks. 
He didn't. My younger brother and I flew back to Colorado to try and help my older brother put my father's affairs in order. It wasn't pretty. When all was said and done, the mountain cabin was sold and the life insurance policy was cashed in, the car was sold, it never really amounted to much. Not compared to the man. At the time of his death, my father was still working as a printing salesman, with no active plans for retirement. If he had played the game differently, who knows what might have happened. Maybe I wouldn't have to work that second job at the mill.

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