December 12, 2014

Reflections on the Five-Year Age Difference Between My Brother and Me

A few weeks ago when Buffalo was hit by a storm that dropped almost four feet of snow on the city, I called my brother Roger who still lives in our hometown of Ithaca, NY. I wanted to know how he was faring in the blizzard, forgetting that what hits Buffalo is often isolated "lake effect" snow. Cleveland, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and other cities on the shores of the Great Lakes can be socked with massive snowfalls, while just a few miles away there is no snow at all.

That was the case this time. It hadn't snowed in Ithaca, but I was glad I called. I love my brother, but neither of us is very good at keeping in touch, by email or telephone. We had a nice chat when I called this time.

Roger is five years my junior. Carol, our deceased sister, was a year and a half younger than Roger. The three of us grew up in a rather small three-bedroom half-house. The Slatterly family owned the building and lived in the left side of the house. The Schappis rented the other half on the right.

Here's a photo taken on a visit to Ithaca recently:

215 (or was it 217?) Prospect St.
Chatting with Roger on the phone, I was reminded that the five-year age gap between us was a big deal for the first 20 years or so. Then that difference faded into insignificance. Now, it's becoming significant again.

Here's an early photo. Since they were only a year and a half apart in age, Roger and Carol led fairly similar lives. But I lived in a completely different world. When I was in junior high (now called middle school), they were in elementary school. When I was gradating from high school, they were in junior high.

But from age 25 to 75, I never gave much thought to the age gap. Unlike the earlier years, we were leading similar adult lives -- working, raising families, etc. When I was 45 and Roger was 40, I wouldn't have given the age difference a thought.

In our retirement years, too, those five years seemed inconsequential. At least at first they did....

Roger, his beloved wife Gail who died a year or so after this photo was taken, and me.
On our call, Roger described what he was doing at age 80, and I realized that our age gap had again become significant. At 80, I certainly couldn't do everything that Roger is doing now -- like 120 push ups every morning. Still, five years ago, I was in much better shape than I am today.

Parkinson's is responsible for some of the decline, of course. But much of it is just normal age-related deterioration. My changes between ages 80 and 85 have been much, much greater than my changes from age 60 to 65.

I've frequently thought how the changes in my 80s are similar in degree to changes I underwent in my teens. John Schappi at age 20 had undergone many changes during the previous ten years. So too, half way into my 80s, I feel the changes coming quickly.

In the highly unlikely event that I live beyond age 90, the changes would be similar -- but in reverse -- to the changes from birth to age 10. This is why I have little interest in living beyond age 90.

But, at this moment, going from 16 to 15 doesn't seem all that bad.

So, Happy New Year!

No comments: