So here’s how today’s earth-shaking reflection on The Cosmic All And Our Place In It came about. It started, really, all very innocently, as these sorts of things tend to do: in making just some of my casual day-to-day observances in my travels around the house, I noticed that one of our smoke detectors, those Silent but not Somnolent Sentinels of Sniffery, sported a label reading, “replace in 2021.” And on further inspection, it turned out another had the same warning affixed. (Please don’t tell me that I’m obviously suffering from Covid cabin fever or have way too much time on my hands --- I’m a 5 on the Enneagram personality inventory, and we 5s are variously referred to as Observer/Investigators, so my eagle-eyed inspections shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.) Yikes, I thought. Better get on changing those little sirens of impending doom post-haste. So I did, and had new ones ready to install only a day or two later. And as I climbed unsteadily up on my chair (wondering if that was really a safe thing to do at my advanced age and reflecting on the dramatic irony --- as only a slightly neurotic writer could --- that would result if I fell to my death while engaged in the act of installing life-saving household equipment), I saw that the new detectors, too, had their own warning labels affixed --- thoroughly bilingual labels, if you please --- saying they, in turn, will need to be replaced by 2032.
Hmm. 2032. Eleven years away. And verily, like the lark (or at least a vulture) at break of day arising, the thought rose unbidden from the wellsprings of his consciousness: that’s probably the last time I’ll change smoke detectors in this house.
Now, lest you think my thoughts entirely too Byronic, black and melancholy for this Spring day, let me pause in my thoughts on mortality and back up a little. Our family has lived in our current little slice of domestic tranquility in the ‘burbs for… let me see, 24 years this May. And my wife, who’s retiring from her own teaching career at the end of this June, has made it quite clear in recent conversations she doesn’t envision this house as our retirement home. (In case you’re wondering, I have no particularly strong feelings either way --- at least, not yet --- but lengthy marital experience taught me long ago that the musings of She Who Must Be Obeyed are to be ignored only at one’s extreme peril.)
So… yeah. Sic transit gloria mundi and all that. Funny --- well, strange, not really humourous --- how humans have this amazing tendency to ignore the passage of time and their own impending mortality, only to have it thrust in their collective faces by, sometimes, the most mundane, trivial things. Although don’t get me wrong --- frankly, that strikes me as a better way of being reminded of such things than a catastrophic, life-altering/ending event. But there you are, just merrily zooming down Life’s highway, noticing but not really paying attention to some of the wayside signs, and suddenly, the road’s blocked by a whole bunch of big-ass bright orange traffic cones and blinking lights, and the only route available is the off-ramp. It does give you pause, doesn’t it? Well, if it doesn’t, it should.
Now, I’m not getting all worked up about this. At least, I don’t think I am. Well, I’m trying not to, anyway. A departure from this house to another is likely at least a couple of years away at this point… because, for starters… you know, he said, gesturing apologetically and chuckling in a self-deprecatory way, the pandemic and all… and aside from such a trivial thing, it would probably take us at least two years to get our poop in a group and go through 24 years of accumulated stuff, deciding what to keep and what to discard --- including a whole pile ‘o stuff belonging to a couple of our adult children who have theoretically left home but inexplicably still seem to regard mom and dad’s place as some sort of ultra-convenient, discount (read: *free*) self-storage depot. (Oy.) And any number of things might happen between now and then to render the entire discussion moot. You know, like the zombie apocalypse or something. Or my wife might change her mind --- it’s been known to happen once or twice before --- and decide she likes living in a place where it’s winter for eight months of the year.
But… yeah. Ask not for whom the bell tolls… because it tolls for thee, buddy. And that right soon.
By the way… take this as a cheery PSA for the day, from me to you, and check the damned expiry dates (and working order, come to that) on your own smoke detectors. Because you never know.
And like my wife, you ignore them at your extreme peril.