We die in October.
As an upcoming minor surgical procedure date approaches, I can’t help worrying about what might go wrong. This year so far I’ve managed to beat cancer, leave cigarettes behind and dodge all the Breaking Bad finale spoilers going around. So a teensy, tiny half-hour procedure should be no sweat, right?
But with anesthesia there’s always a risk. And I’m feeling every inch of that risk this time, because in my family, we seem to have an eerie habit of shuffling off this mortal coil in the month of October.
For many, October is 31 sweet days of cool weather, Charlie Brown specials* and free candy. But for me and the other Ratliffs who have survived it, October is the month we remember the passing of my father, my grandfather and at least two uncles. It’s not a particularly morbid month—we don’t dress in black and mourn for weeks, or anything. I mean, there is still free candy to look forward to. But you can bet we are driving a little more slowly around sharp curves and, when possible, not scheduling any hospital visits, no matter how minor.
It’s a weird thing to confront death. I mean, we all know we are going to die, eventually. But you don’t know it the same way you know it when you are half naked in a doctor’s office and she says the word “cancer”. This year, for the first time ever, I had to really think about what it means to stop living and I did not like it one bit.
My whole life, up to this point, I have approached every crossroads and tackled every dilemma using a “worst-case scenario” filter. When I’ve been unsure whether to take a new job, move across country, date a guitar player or worse,** I made myself imagine all the possible conclusions:
“What if my new job falls apart?”
“What if I hate the new city I move to?”
“What if the guitar player uses the word ‘tunes’ when he means ‘songs’ and I have to murder him?”
This process helps me determine if I can live with the consequences, even if the outcome is the worst. If so, I am free to move forward with whatever terrible decision I am about to make. I’m never afraid to fail, because I know that whatever happens, I’ll be okay.
My own mortality was one “worst-case scenario” I could not win. I literally cannot live with the consequences of my own death. I will not be okay with “whatever happens!”
(For the record, YOU’LL be fine. So relax. The world will keep turning and life will go on for you and for everyone—except me. I’m not saying you won’t be sad. Obviously you will mourn the profound loss of me with lots of booze and sex, and then go on to compose a concept album about me, or write a biopic screenplay or one of those “oral history” nonfiction books that are so popular now. I’m just spit-balling, here. You do what you have to do to mark the passage of the Internet’s foremost authority+ on Keith Gordon movies and vegetarian casserole recipes. Just know that you are a survivor in this scenario.)
I’m just having a hard time dealing with the fact that there’s a situation I will absolutely have to face, that I have zero control over, and with which I am totally not cool. And with no afterlife in my immediate post-death future, I’ve got no way to turn my mortal frown upside down. I can’t find a way to put a silver lining around this sad cloud.
I guess I’m mostly worried that I will miss out on something. I hate that! Remember in the seventh grade when the cool kids had their first co-ed party? At that one girl’s house with a swimming pool? And after sunset, when it got a little chilly, the party moved into the basement? And her parents were upstairs watching TV, so it kind of turned into a makeout party? And you had to hear about it third-fucking-hand because no one invited you? Because you are the new kid (with glasses!) that no one even knows, much less invites to a potentially scandalous co-ed seventh-grade makeout pool party?
Well death is like that, but forever.
Frankly, I don’t want to go until we ALL go. I mean, I know it’s selfish, but I kind of hope to live to see the end of the world. When that tidal wave hits, or that alien death ray explodes the Empire State Building, or that monkey flu becomes a bird flu becomes a people flu, I will surrender, peacefully, knowing that at least you guys won’t be having any fun without me.
Or maybe I will not surrender and somehow survive with Jake Gyllenhaal in a library, burning stupid law books and keeping the ice and the wolves at bay! Either option is cool with me!
Here’s the option that is NOT cool with me: having some weird fluke reaction to anesthesia during a routine procedure and dying on the operating table in the month of October. That is the-opposite-of-Fonzie not cool with me. If death in October is the well-traveled road, I’m happy to trek the dirt path on the other side of the fork. Even if it’s merely delaying the inevitable, I’ll take the scenic route, thank you.
So I submit this article as a way to jinx death. With this piece, I hope to negate the weird could-have-been of my dying in the same month as two generations of Ratliffs before me. I’m going to look Croaktober in the face, shake it’s hand and tell it to have a nice life. Then I’ll knock on wood three times and see y’all in the recovery room.
Otherwise—if something does happen to me next week—this post is going to get sooooooo many hits! Right, you guys?!! You know you are going to leave comments below about how crazy it is that I predicted it all right here, and how totally cool I seemed, and how you WISH you had invited me to your seventh-grade co-ed makeout pool party. And then you are going to “”Like” this on Facebook and share the link in an email to your mom and your best friend with a note about how you should get together more often, because “life is short” or whatever.
That is totally something you would/will do!
My advice is: don’t wait. Do all that stuff now! Send this link to your mom and make plans to hang out! Invite me to your makeout pool party! Life can be short! Carpe diem, for reals!
“Don’t forget-to-Like on Facebook tomorrow what you can remember-to-Like on Facebook today!”
–President John F. Kennedy
Most importantly, do not wait until November; especially if you are related to me.
*”The Charlie Brown Specials” is totally my new band!)
**Keyboard players. (Just kidding, ‘Boardies!)