Back in the 1980s and 90s, I spent a lot of my time raking up exotic shit. This is no euphemism. Elephants, orang utans, lions and tigers and bears … oh my! All regularly deposit shit by the shovel-full, and much of my job description involved seeing to it that wonderful creatures didn’t have to step in any poop piles.
The Sacramento Zoo was where I passed the hours, days, weeks and months back then, and some of my happiest moments involved the animals and the people I tagged along with and cleaned up after.
Skewed toward the old side of the age range represented by my coworkers, I was well pleased when our ranks were joined by Robbie … near my own age, we had much in common and immediately and permanently became best friends.
We’d both led life on the wild side, and had the physical side effects to prove it. I was already well into the coronary artery disease that plagues many in my family, and I smoked. Robbie already had AIDS.
Almost 20 years later, Robbie and I are still around. I’m here and he’s in Atlanta, and we’re still best friends. Sadly and unexpectedly, a few of the others aren’t.
Fit, athletic, health conscious Lee died of breast cancer a number of years ago. Kevin, at least 10 years younger than me and Robbie, was dropped by a heart attack. And we just had news yesterday that another one of our group has some horrible cancers growing in horrible places. All younger non-smoking folk with no touch of HIV. (Another friend is also facing the cancer fight now … also a much younger, non-smoking careful eater.)
It’s a funny old thing, this life and death and health and illness stuff. Twenty years ago, all predictions would have had Robbie gone within a couple of years with me not too far behind, and Lee and Kevin shoveling shit till ripe old ages.
Earlier this year, my son died at the age of 38. My mother turns 78 today in hospital.
There is no moral to this post. I’m certainly not suggesting that people take up smoking and have unprotected sex, as tempting fate is exactly that. But the fates often have their own agenda, of which we haven’t a clue.
Living life while we have it seems to be the only thing that makes much sense, even if that means spending a lot of time up to our eyeballs in shit, exotic or otherwise.