Not necessarily in that order. On August 5, 1986, my father turned 48 years old. On that date, I was 19 years, 4 months and 8 days old. I took him to a club in Santa Monica to see two comedians. The first was a juggler and the more interesting of the two, at least from dad’s perspective. I think he juggled bowling balls and apples at the same time, though I might be mistaken. The second was the guy who did the sound effects with his voice in the Police Academy movies. I was quite taken with his use of a digital sampler. Dad, an engineer and patent attorney, told me after the show that the technology in the sampler was similar to or derived from that used in radar. I’ve never verified this. I wore a silk necktie given to me by my ex-girlfriend for the previous Hanukkah on which I managed to spill sour cream from my nachos.

heartA couple of weeks later, the night before I returned to San Francisco for my sophomore year at SF State University, we had an argument about what I was going to do with my life. I was having a hard enough time just being in school and trying to pass my general ed without figuring out my future, though I had some idea that I wanted to teach.

It was the last time I saw him, not counting the day before he was cremated.

We argued about my future at least once more on the phone, though probably two or three times in the seven weeks before I returned to LA for the funeral. He probably died of a heart attack. There was no autopsy. Though he had a family history of heart disease, he hadn’t been to a doctor in ages. His mother died of cancer less than a year before he died, though she, too, had had a heart attack at 48. (She was single-handedly running an ice cream parlour in DC and, from the stories I heard, living on coffee and possibly milk shakes.) His father had died about ten years before, though I don’t recall the cause. I want to say it was coronary artery disease, but I’d need to verify.

So, in case you haven’t done the math, in about four weeks, I will also turn 48. For a long time I had this division of my life into three parts: The first 19 years, the last 19 years, and the 10 in between (which didn’t quite conclude with my separation from my first wife – life’s not quite that poetic). I figured when I was much younger that if I got beyond 48 myself, then everything else would be whipped cream on top.

My wife is aware of my obsession with the upcoming birthday, and tries very hard to keep me from overdoing my workouts. She had an uncle who died relatively young whilst on the treadmill at his gym. He was also under doctor’s orders to exercise for health.

I eat relatively well, am a little overweight, run for fitness, and see my doctor at least once a year. The most recent labs were all within normal limits. Blood pressure still slightly low as it has been since I was 22. My plan is to stick around for a great deal longer – 10 weeks or so after my next birthday, Rachel and I will celebrate our 5th anniversary (and almost 11 years together). I look more and more at my other family members. My father’s sister is still kicking ass and taking names at 74 or so and my mother just celebrated her 75th. And my maternal grandparents both lasted well past 80, including 53 years together. My mother didn’t think she’d see an anniversary like that, but has been with my stepdad for 39. Well on the way, really.

I miss my father most when I dream about him. In dreams, I often try to make him happy with what I’ve made of my life. He was brilliant (Engineering Princeton, JD from Georgetown) and astoundingly clever, though sometimes not very smart. Only in his last few years (and with his third wife) was he on his way to being happy. For my part, my life overflows with happiness most of the time, and as long as I’ve brought a fraction of that to other people, I can go when it’s my time without regret.