FROM THE STOOL

FIRST AND LAST

Most people fondly remember their first date, first love, first lover, first car, first flight, first apartment, first drink, first smoke, first lobster, first teacher, first victory, first defeat. The list of firsts is endless and while the modern world's focus has shifted from long pants and makeup to computers and contraception, all of life is a series of firsts.

Tragically, life is also a series of lasts, but with few exceptions we don't know it. As we age we may consciously take our last ski trip, sky dive for the last time, give up drinking or smoking, retire from our jobs, or resign from the neighborhood basketball team.

Perhaps at the very end of life, if we are fortunate enough to have all of our rational faculties, we will know when we have taken our last bath, our final vacation, achieved our last orgasm. From my point of view it is easier to accept that all life is short and will end, than to accept the phase out or shut down of component parts which provide most of life's pleasures.

Life without some measure of wine, women and song physical activity the independence of driving a car and handling one's own affairs is vastly more difficult to accept than the fact that life will end.

George Burns became a country and western star at age 95 was scheduled to put on a one-man show in Las Vegas on his 100th birthday. While he missed his centennial, he smoked a dozen Churchill's everyday and drank two double gin martinis, the last on the day he died.

When you hit your last drive, drink your last vodka, enjoy your last sexual experience, attend your last party and not know it, is the very best way to spend the last day of your life. As we all receive a ticket for a trip of indeterminate length, it is the quality of the ride that counts no matter what we believe the final destination will bring.

It is only now as I approach my 60th birthday with the hope of many more, that I have an increasing need to savor, a little longer, experiences which only a few years ago I took for granted.

While I don't consciously approach a well struck backhand, a cruise to the Bahamas, or a barbecued steak with any finality, I am working on enjoying life more, slowing down as I would spend all of eternity regretting an argument with my youngest daughter if it proved to be on our last walk, and nearly as bad if I overcooked our last T-bone.

I regret not taking this approach much earlier in life but I am no less grateful for having the opportunity.