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The number is sixty-nine

By Tony Deyal

My friend Kamal, who lives in Florida, decided to spend his birthday in his homeland, Trinidad.  By all accounts it is expected to be on a grand scale.  

In the days preceding his departure for Trinidad, with anticipation getting higher than the invitees to the birthday party and the bar owners in the remote village of Manahambre using Kamal’s arrival as security for bank loans and the purchase of luxury vehicles, I called him to enquire about the arrangements for designated drivers, hangover cures and tent rentals.  

He was not available, possibly attending a pre-party party.  Extremely tired from a day of toil, and so utterly fatigued from the pressures of the day, I went to sleep.  

At some point in the night my phone rang with the hurried, rising, loud ringtone that is noisy, irritating, insistent and close to deafening that I have chosen to deal with my increasing loss of hearing. It seems that so deep was my slumber and so overwhelming my tiredness that despite its volume, the phone had been ringing for some time before I heard it.  

I jumped, leapt, flew and fell out of bed and almost strangled myself. I had forgotten that now in my post-middle age life I have to sleep attached to a CPAP machine with what is known as a “flexible” hose one end attached to my face and head, covering my nose with a mask and the other connected to the machine which pumps air into my lungs.  

CPAP (according to Wikipedia) stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or the use of continuous positive pressure to maintain a continuous level of positive airway pressure in a spontaneously breathing patient. There are two things you need to know, the machine speeds up the air flow when you start to snore and that as you age, even when you sleep you’re under constant pressure. The pressure gets worse the older you get.

The problem with the word “hose” is that it can be misinterpreted especially by doctors and wives.  I shudder to think of my wife’s reaction if I told her that I got tangled up with some flexible hose and fell out of bed.  

Worse, I can imagine telling a doctor in the emergency ward that some flexible hose got me down. It is like Mark Twain’s take on statistics.  He said, “Statistics are like ladies of the night.  Once you get them down you can do anything with them.” Consider what they can do to you if they get you down.  

The hose pulled the extremely expensive and fragile CPAP machine off the night table, into the air, from whence it was plummeting to a crash-landing on the tiled floor but since my glasses were next to it, the disaster would have been both a spectacle as well as earth and glass shattering.  

The glasses went flying in one direction, I was heading in another, and the machine in a third. I ended on the floor with the glasses on the ground and the machine on my stomach.  But in the melee, I had forgotten my tablet.

This was not Panadol or Aspirin. This was my ASUS which I had caught my asus to buy when it had just come out and which contains my .epub and .mobi libraries.  

It is my nocturnal companion, providing me with access when I wake at four in the morning to all the regional newspapers. It re-Kindled my passion for bedtime reading and watching cricket matches from Sri Lanka and Australia. I had also forgotten some large brass statues that are also on the night-table. I escaped the melee and mayhem without a scratch.

Unfortunately, my ASUS tablet was not so fortunate and had a large gash on the Gorilla Glass that covered it. The phone, also, was not so lucky and has developed even more ailments than me –it cuts off in the middle of conversations and the touch screen has become frigid. It even backs off when I put my finger on it. The call was from Kamal who was in his usual high spirits but the phone died immediately after we started talking.

I will be 69 tomorrow and when I hear all the snide remarks from my friends based on the sexual connotations of that particular number, I tell them I prefer 74 or, in other words, 69 with five people watching–my wife and children.  But what worries me is what I have already come to. Connected to a machine, flustered by a phone call, need my glasses to find my glasses and not strong enough to cope with some hose. 

 But there is hope. Kamal gave me a book, Great At Any Age which tells me that at 69 Mother Theresa won the Nobel Peace Prize; Francis Chichester completed a solo sail across the Atlantic Ocean, a total of 4,000 miles in 22 days; Mary Kaplan completed her goal of running a marathon in every US state, coming first in her age-group in each race; and Laurence Olivier won a Golden Globe for his performance in the film Marathon Man.  

More intriguing is that Brigham Young, the Mormon, fathered his 56th and final child. Me, I would be content to survive Kamal’s birthday party.

 

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