Aspen Princess: It’s gonna happen, just like taxes, so let’s talk it out
The Aspen Princess
“In front of God and everyone else,” my Uncle Marc one said to me during a particularly humiliating moment in my life.
The boy I loved had picked up another girl — at my cousin’s wedding — and was making a big production of flirting with her in front of our whole family, friends, and yes, perhaps god herself. I sat in the corner and stewed in the rank juices of jealousy, dismay, frustration, anger and embarrassment. I knew our little fling would come to an end when Ian’s sister married my cousin. He had expressed his feelings about the situation, that for us to date or become a couple would be awkward since we would, for all intents and purposes, become family.
Still, I held on to the scintilla of hope and the delusion that he would find me too irresistible to end our tryst. Plus, I never expected he would find another girl like, that day. But he did.
No one seemed to understand how devastating this was except my Uncle Marc. Like me, he was never a rule follower but chose instead to live on the fringes of society. He loved fast cars, women and a good buzz. He had a wicked sense of humor and would often bust out with a situational joke that we’d hold onto for years afterward, reciting it over and over. If it wasn’t funny to begin with, it would get funnier as time went on, broken in like a comfy pair of shoes.
If you’re wondering where I’m going with this nice little story, it’s that my Uncle Marc died recently. He was old, and he was quite ill, even though he still managed to live independently and drive a nice little red sports car. It was just his time.
A death in the family is always a little rattling, especially as my parents encroach on their 80s.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents are very healthy and in great shape for a couple of old farts. My mom has great longevity in her family. My dad, not so much.
Still, I have many friends who are dealing with the death of a parent or a parent who is very ill, and it scares the hell out of me. Every time the phone rings, the possibility of bad news flashes through my mind. That day will come, eventually.
My parents have been talking more about end-of-life lately, about their will and their suggestions for how we handle their assets. They have also let me know, in no uncertain terms, that they don’t plan to live without each other, or to stay alive should they be incapacitated. These are unpleasant conversations to have, but I know they just want me to be prepared should I trip over their bodies on my way to the bathroom.
Not long ago, after my eye surgery, the doctor prescribed Vicodin for pain I didn’t end up needing. “Can I have that for my suicide stash?” my mom asked, her tone as nonchalant as if she were asking me to pass the salt.
“No! Absolutely not!” I shrieked. Then I put my hands over my ears and yelled, “La-la-la-la-la-la!” at the top of my lungs.
I complained about this to my dad. “Mom is talking to me about a suicide stash? What the hell?” I asked, expecting him to commiserate.
“Well, we are going to die soon,” he said, in that same infuriatingly casual tone of voice.
“I’m sorry, did you just say you’re dreaming of flying to the moon?”
I got especially nervous when Dad starts waxing poetic about the meaning of life, telling me things like, “You really want to hold onto each moment with Levi because once it’s over, it’s gone forever.”
Then there’s the fact that my mom is really splurging on a family trip to Costa Rica for my 50th birthday, flying us all out of Aspen and renting a beautiful house in Quepos near San Antonio National Park.
“Are you guys dying or something?” I asked my dad. “I mean, Mom is really going big on this one.”
His reply? “Yes, we are all dying.”
My own clock is ticking as I surpass middle age and begin the slow, painful descent into old age. It’s just little stuff now: injuries that don’t heal as fast, aches and pains that come from trying to get stronger but seem to sometimes have the opposite effect. Like when I throw my back out from pushing myself too hard at the gym when the whole point is to get in shape so that I don’t hurt myself.
Or how I don’t leave the house without makeup for the first time in my life because of the age spots on my cheeks and the dark circles beneath my eyes that aren’t because I’m tired but are just there like, all the time.
I am a firm believer that age is a state of mind and plan to remain as immature as possible; to always wear Roxy and other brands that were intended for teenagers; to maintain friendship with as many young people as possible so I never lose touch with what’s current. In fact, I plan to download TikTok and search on YouTube for a tutorial on how to do Renegade. I also plan to stop using phrases like “in fact.”
My Uncle Marc was in his early 80s when he died but he never lost that look of youthful deviance in his eye or the sharp cackle that punctuated a lot of what he said. He always understood me, and I think the thing we had in common was the way we both see the world on our own terms and live by our own rules.
I guess at the end of the day, death is precisely what makes us ponder the way we want to live. It’s what makes everything more meaningful.
The Princess is going snowboarding. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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