At 70, I’ve given up on winning the Nobel prize and even on personal hygiene—but I’m still aiming for 100by Garrison Keillor / February 20, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
Garrison Keillor with his daughter, Maia: “I am even more interested in longevity now that she is 15 and I am 70” © Stormi Greener
All through my twenties and thirties I assumed I’d die young in a car crash like James Dean and thereby become immortal, but then I got too old to die young and anyway I hadn’t done anything to be immortalised for and so forgot about it until, at age 55, I started to get interested in longevity instead. That was the year I begat a little girl, whose arrival in the world gave me a larger stake in the future. She was a cheery little thing. She beamed up at me and laughed when I carried her on my shoulders and twirled her around. Once she wrote “daddy” in enormous letters in green chalk on the driveway and for several weeks, despite a hard rain, I could see it when I backed the car out of the garage. I saw her clear one spring afternoon, swinging high into the air on the neighbour’s rope swing, laughing like a crazy person because her head swung up into the branches of an apple tree—it scared me to death and she laughed and laughed. I was standing in the kitchen door, about to run over and make her stop, as her head disappeared in the blossoms, and then she put her feet down and skidded to a stop and toppled over in the grass, laughing.
I am even more interested in longevity now that she is 15 and I am 70. A man is pained at the thought of abandoning his young to the coyotes and alligators and so I instructed my doctor to make sure I get to see 85 and he is doing his very best. (I had quit cigarettes already and a few years later I got nice and drunk one night and said goodbye to alcohol.) My blood is thinned to ward off strokes, I take a beta blocker to suppress atrial fibrillation, and 12 years ago a surgeon named Michael Orszulak stuck his fingers inside my heart to sew up a mitral valve that was flopping around which would have done me in. I enjoy many advantages that my grandfathers did not, who both succumbed in their early seventies, and so, having recently buried my 97-year-old mum, who outlived my father (88), I allow myself thoughts of 90 and even 95. And now medical science has announced that soon it will be quite ordinary to reach 100. Lovely. I think I am ready.