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Kirby: Me a centenarian? Only if my wife outlives me

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Robert Kirby, Tribune columnist

By Robert Kirby

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 25 2012 03:24PM
Updated Apr 25, 2012 08:37PM

They say the more you complain, the longer God makes you live. If that’s true, there’s a good chance I’ll never die. I complain more than anyone I know.

Fortunately, evidence contradicts this claim to longevity. A week ago, Utah’s oldest living resident, Edna S. Decker, died at age 109.

According to a Tribune story about her life and death, she was a remarkably upbeat woman. She attributed her extended life "to good nutrition, a positive attitude and an independent spirit."

That leaves me out. I have horrible nutrition, the worst attitude ever measured by science, and I haven’t had a fully independent spirit since I got married.

You can’t be too careful, though. With all the advancements in medicine, it’s best to prepare for a long life — especially if it’s longer than you’d like it to be.

If I live to age 109, I’ll still be alive in the year 2060. That’s approximately another 50 years I’ll have to endure on this orbiting clod. The thought depresses me.

I don’t handle change well anymore.

Decker saw a lot of change in her life. When she was born in 1902, a loaf of bread cost 3 cents. By the time she was approximately the age I am now, it cost 16 cents. Fifty years after that, it was $2.80. If I live to be as old as Decker, bread will cost $4,055 per loaf.

That might be OK. The average family income in 1902 was $703. Fifty years later, it was $4,224. If I live until 2060, the average annual income will be close to $900,000. I should still be able to afford bread then. If there is any.

Edna’s parents would have paid $750 for a new Ford. It would have cost my parents $4,011. Two years ago, a friend paid $25,700 for a new car. By the time I reach 109, a new car will cost about $200,000. There just won’t be any gas to run it.

As depressing as all that sounds, it’s even scarier to think of what I’ll look and feel like in another 50 years. Judging from the photo of her with the story, Edna certainly looked better than her 109 years. I’ll look even better in 2060.

Thanks to cosmetic surgery — which will probably come in an aerosol can by 2050 — I’ll look fabulous but still feel hideous. I want to look every one of my 100-plus years. Who wants to look like Ryan Reynolds but scream every time they go to the bathroom?

Edna saw phenomenal change during her life. She was born the year before the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk and lived to witness John Glenn orbit the Earth. Her lifetime saw the advent of penicillin, lasers, heart transplants and cable TV.

I haven’t lived as long as Edna but my lifetime has witnessed a lot of change already — home computers, cell phones, global positioning satellites, Internet, rock ‘n’ roll, breast implants, face transplants, DNA and MTV. Imagine what I would see in another 50-plus years.

The biggest change in Edna’s life is actually the one that worries me the most about my own. She lived a long time after the death of her husband. Elmer Decker’s obituary appeared in The Tribune exactly 46 years to the day that our story ran about Edna’s death.

That’s the change that scares me. I could handle robot politicians, nuclear-powered cars, thought-control banking, vaccinations against ugly, home brain surgery, and even budget vacation cruises to Mars. But I don’t want to be single again.

I don’t think I could survive for 46 years without my wife telling me to eat right, to stop being so negative, and to quit blowing up things in the garage. She’s probably the only reason I’ve lived this long.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/notpatbagley.

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