By Gerald Hausman
Bokeelia, FL, USA
Children's author and poet, Ruth Krauss, said that. If you hear it the way she said it, there's a New York accent and a purposeful pause after the word life. Timing is everything.
A few days ago my wife and I were visiting one of our best friends who said that
her mother had passed at the age of 106. Her aunt, she said, passed at age 109.
"Mom was careful about her diet but her sister loved fast food and smoked cigarettes."
My father liked to say, "To achieve longevity you have to live long." He said this
with a straight face, like Ruth Krauss, but people sometimes imagined he was dim-witted. He liked to argue with the toll keeper at the George Washington Bridge. His question to the toll keeper was always the same: "Is the bridge safe?" The toll guy rose to the occasion but when I tried the same goofball remark with a serious face like my dad's,
the toll keep said, "Keep moving, Jerk."
Some people go through life with a smile. Others with a frown.
Either way, you might have a long life.
But as for smiley faces, I favor them.
The repair tech who fixed our AC unit the other day smiled broadly while he told me about his family. "My grandma," he said, "bucked hay her whole life. She could bend and lift with the best of them. She used to whip me with a peach branch when I hypnotized our chickens – once, 250 of them. She always had a smile. In fact, they found her dead in a circle of hay, smiling up at the sky at age 105."
I wish we could all go that way, or some way similar, when the time comes, smiling up at the heavens.
My father's last words to me in the hospital were delivered with a smile. "Give my nurse a pinch, she's really cute." She was, I did. She gave me a stare after I pinched her but I said, "From my dad ... he said he was too weak." She gave me a big smile.
One of my friends died with a coke in his hand. He looked at his wife, smiled, and said, "What'd you put in my drink?" Last words. He smiled, and died.
I'd like to quote Ruth Krauss on my way out. If there is such a thing as a way out. I rather believe it's a way in, in which case maybe I should say, "Death, who needs it?"
With a smile.
Drawings done by Ruth Krauss (1973) for Gerald Hausman's personal collection.