My birthday resolution was to be focused for the rest
of my life, to pay attention while doing one thing at a time so that
when I die, my last thought won’t be of the 101 other things I should be
My plan was to meet my next year while soaking in a bubblebath, in the
glow of the Feng Shui candles (Earth, Fire, Water, Air) that Chip’s
father Woody gave me, while listening to music with my Ipod. Yes, I have
learned how to program it. Amazingly simple, once you grasp that it is
not itself a computer, but just a little recording thing that picks up
the music you have downloaded into your computer like any other file,
paying 99 cents a song.
So there I was, as I turned 63 late on February 17th, eating chocolate
birthday cake, watching the Olympics, reading Howie Carr’s riveting “The
Brothers Bulger,” and listening to my Ipod in between taking
congratulatory phone calls and email from family and friends.
Well, it was too cold for a bath, anyhow, especially since I don’t have
one of those soaking tubs and there’s no heat in the bathroom. Instead,
I jumped in and out of the shower in the laundry room where I can warm
my terry bathrobe in the dryer, before going out to dinner with my
partner Chip at my favorite restaurant.
He used to offer to take me “someplace nice” but has given in to my Papa
Gino’s preference, was pleased that I recently discovered one in nearby
downtown Beverly. And he has come to admit that the Papa Platter, with
spaghetti, meatballs and ravioli, is superior Italian cuisine.
My new birthday resolution is to give up on the feng shui ambience
dream. I shall never achieve serenity in this lifetime. I will be
needing at least one more, to be reincarnated as a lady of leisure, with
expensive tastes. Either that, or we already know that heaven has
candles and music; all I’ll need to add is a deep clawfoot tub, and a
new body with which to ingest gourmet meals.
But how many more years do I have to wait? Just in time for my birthday,
the Journal of the American Medical Association published a quiz with
which we can determine our risk of dying within four years. I took it
immediately, in case it would give me reason to finish my birthday cake
For some reason, the quiz reminded me of the abatement form I filled out
recently. Can assessors really determine the true market value of my
house? Can doctors truly determine my real “death risk”?
There were only 12 questions in the latter form; you add points for all
the supposedly bad things, like having cancer or diabetes. I got stuck
on Question 3, where I was supposed to add a point if weight was normal
or underweight. Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t we be adding a point for
every extra ten pounds?
I understand adding points for smoking. But some of the questions were
open to interpretation. The quiz asked if I have difficulty bathing.
Well, yes, when it’s cold, without plugging in a space heater next to
the tub, which could add to the risk of dying by electrocution.
It added two points if, because of a health or memory problem, I have
difficulty managing my money. Would that I had such an excuse for
impulsively buying that blender set I saw last week while flipping
channels for Olympic events. On the other hand, I plan to use to it make
smoothies out of fresh fruit and vegetables, so won’t that add to my
By the way, if you watch that infomercial, do not pay $40.00 for
shipping and handling. Cancel the order and they will probably call you
back with a better offer.
Seriously, this quiz can’t be serious. It adds two points if you “have
difficulty walking several blocks”. Since when are bad knees
life-threatening? If it refers to difficulty breathing, it should say
so. I assume that is the reason you get a point for having difficulty
pushing large objects like a living room chair; a bad back or broken arm
I hate to think of the people who have failed this test and are now
managing their money badly because they think they won’t need it after
four years. On the other hand, it’s always good to be ready. Based on my
answers, I have a less than 4 percent chance of dying in four years, but
I’m still going to burn those feng shui candles, as soon as possible,
just in case. Will try to finish Howie’s book today. I should note that
running into Whitey Bulger, and being recognized as someone who knows
him, would be worth a lot of points on the death risk index.
And since being overweight doesn’t seem to count for anything,
longevity-wise, I’ll have another chocolate cake, please.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.