Hold on a minute, eh? There’s something wrong with this information. Something unfair! Okay, let’s suppose I make it to 85, say -or maybe even 90. Wow, the kids might say, he’s had a long and eventful life. They might even celebrate the life-long memories we shared, and fib a bit at the funeral about my character or whatever; every deceased has a lumpy carpet from all the dust being swept under it. But when the time comes -as long as it has been a decently long time- and although everybody grieves the passage, they will understand. We all -and they as well- will have to cast off the mortal shells assigned to us eventually. Nothing lasts…
And there’s something comforting in the thought that my organs -my help in ages past, my companions through the Sturm und Drang- will find themselves finally tired enough to lie down with me. That, after the long and busy journey, I will be accompanied by friends.
It’s all lies, though -misinformation. Wouldn’t you know it? I mean, it’s not as if I would want my dog to pick up one of my slippers and try follow me, or anything. I don’t want the world to end just because I have -although the solipsist in me actually thinks it will- but that still wouldn’t bring me back would it? I don’t think I’d want to come back if I still had to hang around in my old used clothing anyway. I’d just like to think that all my parts had agreed to join me in whatever the final journey entailed.
I shouldn’t have been surfing through the apps on my phone; I should have stayed away from BBC’s Future series, but no, I was seduced by the title of an essay written by Tom Garmeson, a multimedia journalist: Why your organs might reach 100 even if you don’t. (https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200625-the-woman-with-a-100-year-old-liver)
To be clear, I have no aspirations of achieving centenarian status nor, like my grandmother, of receiving a letter from the Queen to acknowledge a 100th birthday. And anyway, I’m not British, I’m Canadian and we’re usually suspect if we live that long, given the ever-present challenge of geo-polity. Of course, my worry may simply be, as Dickens’ Scrooge suggested, only ‘an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, or a fragment of underdone potato’ -I mean who knows? But I digress
At any rate, Garmeson writes that ‘some of our organs have the capacity to outlive us, while others age far more quickly.’ But what am I, the long-time foreman of these employees, to make of this company rebellion? What is Garmeson implying anyway? Poor working conditions? Industrial safety violations?
I’d like to think I have played no favourites with any of my innards. They are all expected to work overtime on occasions -it’s a matter of feeling pride in the company. Loyalty to the business. I have usually tried to adhere to the Dumas musketeering slogan of ‘All for one and one for all,’ and needless to say, I expect the same from my workers… Okay, sometimes I’ve been in a bad mood, and pulled rank, but not so much anymore. Age softens the whip.
Anyway, Garmeson points out that ‘researchers tend to be more interested in the discrepancy between your chronological age – how many years since you were born – and your biological age, a concept used to describe how our bodies are actually faring as we get older… So, while we may have the youthful appearance of a 38-year-old, our kidneys might have the shrivelled appearance of one from a 61-year-old, as one study in adults found. Equally we could have all the wrinkles and hair loss of an 80-year-old, but still have the beating heart of a 40-year-old.’ I can’t help but think of Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray.
Naturally my brain, the real owner of the company, is always on the lookout for any hint of industrial sabotage -any signs of potential takeover bids. I’m not privy to its inner workings, of course, but I can’t imagine it would tolerate signs from, say, the liver that any shuffling of authority at the top was in the works. Brains get very nervous at my age -especially when confronted with any rumours that they, unbeknownst to their employees, might have been secretly harbouring plaque. I don’t think livers do that, do they?
‘The liver, for example, is well known for its regenerative capabilities, and patients who have had up to two thirds of their liver surgically removed can find the organ almost completely regrows to its previous size within a year. Some researchers have suggested that nonagenarians are a largely untapped pool of potential liver donors.’ You don’t hear stuff like that about even young brains, and I think that probably weighs rather heavily on mine.
Especially when it reads that ‘Certain organs may be more sensitive to some aspects of our lifestyle than others.’ Speaking on behalf of my brain, I’d like to point out that I think it’s doing its part on the healthy lifestyle scene. I mean, hardly a day goes by when it doesn’t retry a Sudoku puzzle it was having trouble with. Or it makes me go out for a run, even in the rain -and sometimes when I’m sure it’d rather sit and read a book, or something. It also sleeps a lot, as well -sleep’s good isn’t it?
Some organs, though, are more difficult to protect than others, I suppose. Take the lungs. I’m pretty sure they don’t sleep at night like the rest of us. And I know the kidneys keep talking to my bladder off and on in the dark as well. Plus, my bowels are moving around even before breakfast, although its nightshift is probably quite happy that the rest of us are sleeping so it can do a little maintenance shuffling. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
Still, I have to say I am more than a little disappointed that among those I’ve worked with for so many years there are some who have tried to disguise their real ages and tarted themselves up. And for what? Hope of selling themselves to someone as desperate as them?
Nope, I expect some loyalty from the firm that I’ve so carefully nurtured. I mean where would they be without me? I doubt they could have made it much past the blastocyst stage if I hadn’t turned up. Anyway, the middle of the Final Act is certainly not the time to walk off the stage either.
So, forget Dylan Thomas and do go gentle into that good night -with me. It’s in the contract.