Vail Daily columnist Warren Miller: Can’t live forever, right?
Vail, CO, Colorado
Everything in the world has a certain life expectancy, including the world itself.
If you live on Okinawa, then you will be expected to live a lot longer than if you live in New York City.
All of your body parts will someday wear out. The hope is that they all wear out at the same time, and when you arrive in the emergency room, they will tie a note to your big toe saying DOA and send you to the morgue.
My wife has long considered me a teenager trapped in a senior citizen’s body. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is “If you didn’t know when you were born how old would you be?” Age is just a number and women in California are forging their drivers licenses so they can get a free lift ticket before they reach the magic age of 75, when their lift tickets are free.
I am a good student of body parts wearing out because a lot of mine are already doing just that, but I know my right leg will be the last thing to wear out because I have a 16-inch steel rod inside of the bone because of a dumb fishing accident.
Unfortunately for me, my eyes started wearing out several years ago when I was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Fortunately for me, I got hit with the disease about six months or so after they discovered a way to halt its growth. Every two months a doctor injects a cancer drug into each eye and these injections, though not curing the condition, halt the flow of blood over the retina for roughly the next 60 days.
The disease is not nice because the retina has to look through the blood and in the center of your vision there is a big dark spot. If I look directly at your face I cannot see it, but I can see each of your shoulders very clearly.
This limits my driving ability to the speed limit and my wife only lets me drive on the small island where we live in the spring, summer and fall.
I can still hit a golf ball, but I cannot see where it goes, so I play with a friend of mine who is deaf and can’t hear me when I tell him where his golf ball is. That works for both of us.
To add insult to injury, tomorrow I am going to Bozeman to have my hearing tested for hearing aids. Now I will have no excuse for not doing what my wife tells me to do. Maybe I don’t want them!
The overall feeling you start to get is that your world is gradually collapsing around you. But that is not totally the case. I still get a lot of sleep because I have a C-pap mask that blows more air into my lungs when I am sleeping. Last night I slept for seventeen hours non-stop. I was really tired! What is not to like about a snooze such as that?
Activity is the main thing I miss at the age of 88. I considered giving up skiing last winter. That was because three years ago I was in a three mile an hour traverse, stepped out of my right ski and flew up in the air. The ski I stepped out of stopped on its side and I landed on that just sharpened edge, breaking my back and landing me in the hospital.
When I tried to ski after the accident, it was strictly a mental thing. For the first time since 1937, it was scary to ski, plus I did not want to fall badly and have my wife push me in a wheelchair for an indeterminate amount of time.
The dumbest thing people ask me is if I miss skiing? Of course I miss it, but I have 73 years of experiences skiing and filming all over the world to write about.
At the same time, I write my weekly newspaper and monthly magazine articles and relive my life through the keyboard on my computer. I am really enjoying this writing phase of my life because it is much more engrossing than it was to write scripts to accompany fantastic pictures.
So far, I still have the reserve tank of energy that I saved during my teenage and Navy days.
From the age of 16, a high percentage of people really do abuse their minds and bodies with alcohol and cigarettes or more currently, drugs and fake commercialized foods. I am very fortunate because I have never had a drink of alcohol or smoked a cigarette, so my young body did not have to spend all of those years processing all of that junk. So now, even at 88, I think I am living better because I don’t have all that stuff in my system from those early years. I have no proof for my theory, but I am stuck with it unless I change my mind.
I know that the bad eyesight is in part due to a lifetime spent looking through the lens of a camera without dark glasses, surfing with the sun reflecting off the water or glaring off of a snow field, again with no sunglasses.
The difference between being eccentric and weird is usually defined by unconventional behavior of varying degrees. Is windsurfing from Maui to Molokai at 65 years of age being weird? If so, I’m weird.
Is skiing for 73 years weird? Then I’m definitely weird.
Was living in a small trailer with another guy in Idaho for two winters weird? Then I was eccentric at a young age. Saving money was not weird, though.
When it came time to build our winter house at the Yellowstone Club in Montana, Laurie and I decided to build essentially the same house as the home we built on a small island in the Northwest. We have two of everything and those items are put away in the same drawers in both homes. The convenience is great, and Laurie reminds me that I won’t tinkle in the closet instead of the bathroom when I don’t wake up fully in the middle of the night. She isn’t dumb.
But yes, we are both weird and eccentric. It works for us.
I spend a lot of the winter walking on ice and snow into and out of cars and places of business.
Maybe it is my bald head that makes me look old, but it seems that now days a lot of people take my elbow and ask me if they can help me.
Many years ago, when I produced a movie for Mike Wiegele to help popularize helicopter skiing, I said, “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do!”
This advice applies to anything you long to do and is especially a valuable perspective as you age!
Whatever you do, don’t take life too seriously because you can’t come out of it alive.
However, I am sure going to try!
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to more than 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log onto warrenmiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to http://www.warren