Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

My friends are in their 70s

Wick's World


February 21, 2019

I grew up in South Dakota where everything seemed to lag behind the rest of the country. To this day, South Dakotans are proud to claim the distinction of being “stuck in the fifties.” The sixties that swept across America brought permanent cultural changes in music, dress, hair style, and especially a demand for equal rights. It happened in South Dakota in the seventies.

Way back then, the few flower children of South Dakota were mostly to be found on the college and university campuses. A little over a year had passed since I was discharged from the U.S. Airborne Infantry when I found myself among the small group of protesters who took over the ROTC building at the University I was attending. The disillusionment from the Vietnam War and the plethora of lies coming from every leader (JFK, LBJ and finally ending with Nixon) and their collusion in that unjustifiable war, had turned me from a gun-toting patriot to a radical leftist who wanted to upend every cultural value I had been taught since I first began Sunday School.

None of us ever protested a church. Deb, the daughter of the town’s Lutheran minister, came the closest when she ran off and got married the day she turned eighteen. Needless to say, that marriage lasted about a year. She next ran off with a hippie we called Tennessee Bill (pronounced be-all). They are now retired and, in their seventies, still living in the ‘cricks and hollers’ just outside of Nashville.

Deb’s best friend Nina was born the daughter of the superintendent of a small-town school. Upon graduation, she ran off to Austin, Texas where she joined my wife and I as part of the Country Outlaws, just another name for Texas hippies. Nina came up just short of seventy. Last week she went in for gall bladder surgery. Following her discharge from the local hospital, despite her friends' protests, she was dropped off at home, wanting nothing more than to sleep in her own bed. Her friends understood this, as did I. We all would want to recuperate in the comforts of our own bedroom. Her health care providers saw no problem with this so her friends dropped her off at home.

The next morning, many friends and co-workers called Nina, both on her land line and the cell phone she kept by her side. It didn’t take too many rings before they knew something was wrong. Nina would never leave a call unanswered. Last week she did. Her best friend rushed over to Nina’s house, breaking the silence banging on her door. As with her telephones, Nina never answered. I never asked how her friend got in the house. That was a part of the story I didn’t need to know. Her friend saw her lying quietly on the couch. Nina had found her final resting place.

Nina’s friends eventually talked to each other, some by phone, others by social media. The conversations had one thing in common. We all agreed that this was not supposed to happen. She died too young. She wasn’t even seventy yet.

Dying that early belonged to our parent’s generation. When I was growing up on the Missouri River out in South Dakota, life expectancy for a white male was sixty-five years old. Women did a little better at sixty-seven. My grandmother was the perfect representative for her generation. She could have yelled “bingo” when the Grim Reaper called “under the I, sixty-seven.”

I neither know or care what the life expectancy is for my demographic, a white, balding male with a very slight paunch. I heard recently that for the first time since God spoke to Abraham, the life expectancy in the United States had actually dropped. Today, a needle stuck in your arm is more likely to kill you than cure you, and “guns don’t kill people, people kill people…with guns.”

For my generation, we assume a life expectancy of at least seventy. Anything less and we say “they died too early.”

You can say it anyway you want but the truth is, “You live ‘til you die.”

Most of my friends are either in their seventies, or rapidly approaching that number. I am one of the many baby-boomers who felt we would live forever. A lot of us have already made the goal of seventy, only to realize dying at seventy is “way too early.”

I’ll end this with a quote coming from a man who I’m not so sure I like anymore. Woody Allen once said, “I don’t mind dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”


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