Opinion | Biff America: More breeding, less dying
Karl Anderson died on my birthday. It was both sad, yet emblematic of a time of life where way more of my friends and family are dying than having children.
Though I hadn’t seen Karl since I began to shave regularly, even before his passing, he had been on my mind.
We grew up next to each other. Between our two families there were 11 kids, many of us close in age. I was friends with three of the Anderson kids, Karl being the oldest. He was about the age of my older siblings, but unlike them, Karl didn’t tell me to, “get lost” when I followed him around the neighborhood.
Karl’s death, though sad, did not ruin my birthday; it has never been that great.
When you are/were a “Christmas Baby,” you are conditioned to have low expectations.
I was born Dec. 28 and as a kid I was always disappointed to see tags on gifts left under the tree reading, “Merry Christmas and happy birthday.” My mom would explain that the gifts that featured that designation were extra expensive, thus were worthy of a two-birds-with-one-stone designation. But, as a greedy child, by performing simple math, I knew I was getting a raw deal.
My mate came into this world Dec. 23. As yet another example that the squeaky wheel gets the attention, her DOB has morphed into a three-day festival (much like Burning Man minus the nudity).
But with what I call the “fabulous five” holidays — Christmas, Hanukkah, National Pfeffernusse Day (Dec. 23) and New Year’s Day, it is understandable how other celebrations get diluted.
We also are conditioned to conserve our holiday energies and expectations living and working our entire adult lives in resorts. With the community bursting with guests and events there always is that temptation to make hay while the sun shines and stockpile resources for the slow seasons.
But though the celebration is and has always been low-key, I try to take a little time to reflect and remind myself that despite a lifetime of getting “two-fers” gifts, how lucky I am to be alive, loved, safe and healthy.
None of that is particularly deserved, but a gift of happenstance and genetics. Lefty Gomez is famous for declaring “I’d rather be lucky than good” and I do indeed feel blessed to be on the correct side of the dirt in a place I love, living with someone who doesn’t mind my dancing and thinks I’m funny.
Of course your own good fortune is made more obvious by the misfortunes of those who you care about and those who love them.
Being at an age where I can recall the nicknames of grammar school friends better than I can remember where I left my phone, when Karl’s name popped up on social media last summer it caught my attention. A few minutes later, I was so preoccupied with searching for my phone, he slipped out again.
I dreamt of him only a week before he had the stroke which would eventually cause his death. In my dream Karl came to my house and asked to borrow a snow shovel. We walked to my garage and I showed him my quiver of snow tools. When Karl seemed impressed by my shovel selection, it made me proud. We did not exchange info or histories; it was as if we’d never been apart.
The dream was so vivid and unexpected, I found his address online and emailed Karl. If he was surprised to hear from me after 50 years he did not mention it. We exchanged a few short notes.
Two weeks later his sister wrote to tell me he had died.
By his obituary and internet tributes, it is obvious Karl was both loved and successful. But honestly I can’t speak to that. I knew him as a nice guy, handsome and charismatic, but mostly he was the older brother of my friend Lee who, unlike my older siblings, treated me as an equal. I do know that, for those who loved him, 2019 will be defined by their loss. I woke up New Year’s Day hoping for a better year. A better year for America, the world and anyone who lost someone they love. But the sad truth is that, like birth, death is all part of life’s circle; a much larger part as we age. So I hold little hope that, going forward that more of my friends will be breeding than dying. But in the meantime I’m staying in shape for the former.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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