Speaking of My “Impending” Death

I'd Rather Not, Thank You

Speaking of my impending death

Remember the old Art Linkletter bit – “Kids Say the Darndest Things?” Well, recently a young friend of mine had the darndest conversation with me about – in his estimation – my seemingly impending death!

And it all came about because of that old adage, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

Once a week I volunteer as a tutor through Reading Partners, a terrific nationwide literacy program which provides free one-on-one tutoring to children reading below grade level at elementary schools in under-served communities.

Just the other day, as my young mentee “R” and I were walking from his classroom to the Reading Partners classroom, we got to talking about how old we were. “R,” a third-grader, is 9. I’m 63.

Once we got settled with our assignment for the day, we started reading Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree – the story of an oh, so generous tree that gives everything – apples, leaves, shade, branches, and eventually even its trunk – to provide for the boy the tree loves. As the story progresses, the boy ages until he is very old.

When we finished the book, my young reading partner looked up at me and said, “Well, I think that man will die pretty soon, don’t you?” I mumbled something not particularly profound.

Then, without missing a beat, my unfiltered friend said, “Well, I guess you’ll be dead by 2040, right?”

“Huh?” I replied, quickly doing the math and protesting that I could still be alive in 2040. Silently I hoped that would be the end of the conversation, but oh, no. My young mentee kept going.

“Well, by 2050, you’ll definitely be dead.”

I thought of pushing back and arguing that I’d “only” be 96. I thought of pushing back and saying, “Yeah, well, you’ll be dead by …” But I’m not good at math and besides that kind of remark would have been totally inappropriate. So, I just gave up, shrugged my shoulders, and changed the subject.

It just goes to show you. Never reveal your age! A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing.

Oh, well. Who knows? Maybe our “discussion” will inspire my young friend to become an actuary specializing in the measurement and management of risk and uncertainty.

And when did this joyous conversation take place? Just before my birthday, of course!

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Endnote: despite this literary and verbal brush with mortality, I do intend to re-up for my third year with Reading Partners. If you have just two hours a week, please consider volunteering. Think of the impact you can have on a child’s life. Just remember: kids really do say the darnest things!

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