James A. Michener

An elderly man wearing a floral-print golf shirt and holding onto a walker stands in front of Angkor Wat, surrounded by a bevy of radiant-looking local women, two of whom have their arms around the elderly man’s shoulders: “Our grandparents were married for over seventy years. During that entire time our grandfather watched what he ate, worked as a podiatrist (he didn’t retire until his late 80s), abstained from alcohol and tobacco, and exercised regularly. Our grandmother was the opposite. She ate junk food, spent her days (post-children) planted in front of the television, popped pain pills the moment she felt one of her phantom aches, gobbled sleeping pills every night, and couldn’t walk more than a block without getting winded. What amazed us most wasn’t that our grandmother lived to ninety years old (which only confirmed for us the idea that longevity was another of life’s crapshoots), but that our grandfather never once complained to our grandmother about her lifestyle, never implored her to change, and never gave her any type of ultimatum. In a rare moment of candor right before he died at the age of 102 (having outlived our grandmother by over a decade) our grandfather told us that the reason he never worried about our grandmother’s health was because he had always secretly hoped her ill-living would kill her. He told us that he wanted her to go first so that he could spend the rest of his days doing what he wanted and enjoying the peace and quiet, which is exactly what he did, taking trips to exotic locations all by himself and, when at home, catching up on a lifetime’s worth of reading, specifically the gargantuan tomes of James A. Michener (his favorites were Alaska, Hawaii, and Texas, although he did have a soft for Space and Poland), who our grandfather claimed was the Great American Novelist (our grandfather also told us that the reason the title of Great American Novelist had been withheld from Michener [from the literary establishment, at least] was because of Michener’s aversion to, according to our grandfather, ‘Going on a journey up his own ass’). When we asked our grandfather why he didn’t just divorce our grandmother he waved us off and told us that divorce was for sissies. Then he told us that the main difference between his generation and ours was that his generation had vast reserves of patience.”

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