Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Jaws of Life

My Grandmother Rogers died the month before she would have turned 97. Her family, the Trainors, were the most long-lived branch of my family. Nanny’s brother Pat lived well into his 90’s, and her sister Roseanne made it to 98.

On my mother’s side, my Aunt Mary’s making a longevity run of her own. Mary is 91, still completely sound of mind, still rooting for her beloved Cubbies to win it all.

I pretty much have the same long-life wish as most folks: as long as your health is reasonable, your brain still working. As long as there are still family and friends to hang with. For me, it’s also as long as there are books to read, ice cream to eat, and baseball games to watch. As long as the country hasn’t gone to the dogs of fascism. As long as life is still good, living into great old age – my nineties – sounds fine.

And, beyond, I guess.

But not forever.

I really don’t get those folks who want to swig the elixir of eternity. The world is already on its way to an unsustainable population of folks who want to drive cars, eat steak, and sit around in their air conditioned homes watching TV. We don’t really need a bunch of folks who refuse to die and leave room for someone new. At some point, don’t we all have the obligation to say ‘stop the world, I want to get off’?

So far, there is fortunately no magical formula for eternity on earth, but I’m sure those ‘hell, no, we won’t go’ Boomers who can’t stand the thought of dying will keep looking. (Forget ‘don’t trust anyone over thirty.’ It’ll be ‘don’t trust anyone under a hundred and thirty.’)

I’m sure they’ll be trying to dissect just how Greenland sharks – the longest-lived animal with a backbone -  manage to make it to great old age.

Using a novel dating technique, an international team of biologists and physicists estimated the age of 28 dead female Greenland sharks based on tissue in their eyes. Eight of the sharks were probably 200 years or older and two likely date back more than three centuries, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science. (Source: Boston Globe)

The geezeriest of the geezer sharks, which was caught four years ago, is estimated to have been 392 years of age when she took the bait. That’s 392 plus or minus 120 years, which means she may have been born in 1500.

Leonardo daVinci and Michelangelo were painting. The Portuguese were “discovering” Brazil. And William Shakespeare was not yet a twinkle in his father’s eye. In fact, William Shakespeare’s father was not yet a twinkle in his father’s eye.

That’s a long time to hang on.

But not as long as some invertebrates.

An ocean quahog, a clam, lived 507 years and two different types of sponges are said to survive for 15,000 and 1,500 years.

That must have been one tough quahog when it was diced up and thrown in the processor at the Snow’s chowder factory.

And there are pine trees that made it through 5,000 years on earth. Must not get bored easily.

Anyway, I’m sure there are some ‘I wanna live forever’ folks who’ll be looking to fund shark research in hopes of grabbing that brass ring of longevity. Maybe the answer will be more shark fin soup. Maybe it’ll be wearing sharkskin suits. Or spending lots of time in the water, aimlessly moving to and fro. Maybe it will require eating raw seal. Or taking an occasional bite out of the leg of a swimmer. All I know is I’m not hoping to be a beneficiary of this type of Jaws of Life. Live forever? Ask me when I’m 99, but for now the answer is ‘no thanks.’

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