Do you ever read those things on a can of beans? On the package of butter or noodles you just bought? Have you purchased an item at the grocery only to discover when you got home that it was past its “use by date?” My sister-in-law use to clean out my mother-in-laws refer and cupboards of all the past the use by date goods and she had little left in the pantry. Do we get sick if we consume something past its use by date? Even if it hasn’t been opened?
What about people? I think I am past my use by date. This is the date where the parts start to fall apart. Up to a certain point we have damage, just like the damaged goods canned food with big dents in them. But after the use by date does the product begin to deteriorate? Well people begin to deteriorate at some point in their lives. All those hinges begin to wear and the body begins to fall apart. This is the point in my life. I try tai chi and digging in the garden and touching my toes, but it takes me a while to recuperate, but at least I still recuperate.
I was just reading a book by Daniel Everett called Don’t Sleep—There are Snakes. Though it is primarily a book about language and language development, it is also a study of a group of native people in a far off tributary of the Amazon. Their use by date comes well before ours. They live to be thirty-eight or thirty-nine years old and then they are worn out. They do not build houses but sleep on the ground outdoors. They hunt when they are hungry, but not unless they are hungry. They have no record of the past and no concept of the future, no written language, no counting system or names for colors. They found it most interesting that the foreigners lived to be so old and were so concerned about life’s comforts.
When I worked at Boeing, I rode to work in a carpool. There were five of us, I being the youngest and Earl being the oldest. Earl was counting the days to his retirement when he could go to the thrift and junk store seeking antiques on a daily basis. He was going to make a second occupation of this after working a lifetime at Boeing. Earl died within a year of retirement. Back then the average life expectancy was about sixty-seven for men. The average life expectancy for a Boeing retiree at that point in history was a year and a half after retirement. The use by date being considerably shorter than today.
No wonder many of us didn’t bother to worry earlier about end of life care insurance and help in our old age. We only had a couple of years after we retired to make ends meet and then our use by date was up. Now we can live another forty years or so. My dad retired at fifty-three and lived almost that long again after he retired. Our bodies give out, but we continue on in a more limited fashion.
Next week I have my annual physical. I am sure that I am fine, but the doc requires it to get his bit of Medicare payment for the “wellness exam.” I wouldn’t go, but he will no long renew my prescription if I don’t come in. After surviving cancer twice, it is a good thing to see how much wellness I have left or if I am approaching my use by date. I think it is still a ways off yet.