Thanks for your column entitled "Mimes, for Instance: There Are Worse Things in Life Than Death." I'm going on 96 years old, and nothing irritates me more than to have someone say to me "Oh, you're going to live to be 100." Who wants to live to be 100? It's a lot of work every day to keep this old body going and very expensive, too. I was at the side of two good friends when they died. Nothing to it. I told one of them that I always loved her, and she looked at me, closed her eyes and was gone. Much more should be written about this, and you did very well for a beginning. Thank you so much.
Nana: No, thank you , both for taking the time out of your busy, busy schedule to write to me and for making me feel like a young whippersnapper for the first time in, oh, 30 years. You happen to be the exact age my grandfather would be if he were still here with us, wondering why he wasn't dead yet. And your letter reminded me of his response when his doctor told him that in addition to the colon cancer and the emphysema he now had congestive heart failure. "I just want to beat two out of three of them," he said. I'm not sure he achieved his goal, nor did he really want to, of course. He was just kidding around, facing death with the same equanimity he'd always faced life. I only hope I go out with the same aplomb.
And here's hoping you do, too, Nana. Or not. Either way is fine with me. But should you make it to the dreaded One-Zero-Zero - not that I want you to! - I hope you'll drop me a line and let me know how you're doing. I hear 100's the new 90.
I want to congratulate you on your "Mimes, for Instance" column, in which you implicitly endorsed suicide, euthanasia and atheism. What's next, infanticide? Genocide?
Believe It or Not, A Loyal Reader
Oh, I Believe It, Loyal Reader: Well, I was going to hit you with one of my favorite dead-baby jokes, the punch line for which is "Because it was nailed to the chicken," but I'm just a little too classy for that. I will say this for infanticide, however: It must be very, very appealing, because virtually every civilization, including what we regard as the most civilized ones - ancient Greece, for example - has engaged in the practice. All the major religions have objected to it, and yet all the major empires have gone right ahead and done it anyway. The Puritans who settled this land did it. The Native Americans they stole it from did it. Even the English they also stole it from did it.
In ancient Rome, it was downright routine. The newborn would be brought to the paterfamilias, who, like Nero, would give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. If thumbs down, the newborn would be abandoned somewhere, hence the expression "babe in the woods." Often, the little ones would die of exposure, but sometimes, as in the case of Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome, they would be taken in by someone who would either raise them as their own or treat them like slaves. Why such utterly inhumane treatment? Two reasons, basically: poverty and overpopulation. If you couldn't afford one more mouth to feed, you didn't feed it. And that argument still holds today in parts of China and India.
So, while I am officially opposed - I repeat, opposed (did you get that, opposed) - to infanticide, I also recognize that, like genocide, like death, like dead-baby jokes, it is unlikely to go away. Why did the dead baby cross the street? I don't know, but I doubt if it's any better on the other side.
For how to die laughing or how to laugh dying, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON,WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.