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BBHQ Boomer Essays:

Take Care of Yourself

Our Boomer-In-Charge at BBHQ, Hershel Chicowitz, writes about boomer memories and current events... from a boomer’s perspective. He is sometimes funny, sometimes provocative, some-
times a little of each. We hope you get a kick out of our Boomer Essays.

Ya’ know who else I am angry at? Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets and the backbone of the entire Muppet empire. Jim Henson died in 1990; he was 53. Do you remember how he died? Pneumonia. You’re not supposed to die of pneumonia when you’re 53. He developed a bad cold, but delayed seeking treatment. By the time he finally went to a hospital, it was too late. If he had gotten there 10 hours earlier, he would probably be alive today. But he didn’t. He didn’t take care of himself.

This essay is available in its entirety to all visitors. Enjoy!

My father died when I was 17... a senior in high school. I remember going through what I guess is the normal grieving process. It was devastating. I don’t believe you ever “get over” the death of a parent, or a sibling, or a child. I don’t believe in “closure.” I think you just move on.

So, I moved on. I still have vivid memories of him. But it took me about 20 years... 20 years to get angry at him. My dad was a surgeon; he was also a smoker. He contracted rheumatic fever as a child; it probably weakened his heart. He knew that. He had suffered two prior heart attacks. He did not exercise. He paid no attention to stress. He smoked. And he died of a heart attack at age 57.

My dad and sister     My dad

I am angry at him... because he left a wife and two children who needed him. And he left hundreds of patients whom he could have treated. He knew better. He knew what to do; but he had other priorities.

Don’t get me wrong... my father was a perfectionist; he was brilliant. He was a wonderful father and a great role model. He is a part of my life... every day of my life. But he did not take care of himself.

And I am still angry at him... 30 years after his death.

Ya’ know who else I am angry at? Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets and the backbone of the entire Muppet empire. Jim Henson died in 1990; he was 53. Do you remember how he died? Pneumonia. You’re not supposed to die of pneumonia when you’re 53. He developed a bad cold, but delayed seeking treatment. By the time he finally went to a hospital, it was too late. If he had gotten there 10 hours earlier, he would probably have lived. But he didn’t. He didn’t take care of himself.

“I think he knew there was a possibility he was dying,” said his widow, Jane. “And that possibly was why he didn’t want to go to a doctor. He really didn’t want anyone else to be disturbed by his pain.”

Jim Henson

I don’t care; I am still angry at him.

He “didn’t want anyone else to be disturbed” — ??? No. No!

Karen Carpenter And Karen Carpenter. She had the most perfect pitch I have ever heard... except maybe for Nat Cole. She knew she was sick; she knew that her behavior was killing her. But she did not seek treatment soon enough. And so she died, at age 32.

Oh yeah, and Nat Cole, too. He smoked himself to death at age 45. Don’t tell me he did not know any better. Of course he did.

Harry Chapin was a wonderful songwriter and storyteller... and a great father and general, overall good-deed-doer. But he drove his car way too fast, and way too carelessly... all the time. In July 1981, while driving to a benefit concert, he cut in front of a truck and was sandwiched. He will forever be age 38.

You are the Only Song – Harry Chapin

Oh, I’ve sung it all, tonight
Almost every story that I know
And now when they turn out the spotlights
Ya’ know I’m never sure where I’m s’posed to go

And I get so hoarse that I can’t hit the high notes
It’s just a whisper way down low
But when you sing from the inside
You know you hope that something shows
And that is why...

Yes, you are the only song, the only song I need
You’re my laughter, and you’re my lonely song
You’re the harvest, yes, you’re the seed
And you’re my first, and my final song
For you own me, indeed
Oh yes, oh yes,
Yes, after all is said and done
You’re the one song that I need


  It is so sweet and so sincere!

Lewis Grizzard...... oh, Lewis..... Lewis was the Will Rogers of the second half of the 20th century... a true Southerner and a great American. He wrote about 20 books in as many years... on life, on being a Southerner, on the important and the trivial. He had such a wonderful gift. He was so funny... and so entertaining. Lewis was charming and incorrigible... delightful and impossible. Even if you hated him.... you had to love him. Millions loved him.

Lewis Grizzard was born with a bad heart. And yet, he did about everything possible to abuse his fragile ticker. And directly because of that, he died at age 47, robbing from the rest of us decades of his wit and wisdom.

I am so angry at Lewis Grizzard! So angry!

So angry.

Lewis Grizzard

And my high school classmate Mike Fernberg And Yul Brenner. And Princess Diana. And Rod Serling. And Humphrey Bogart. And Judy Garland. And Bobby Darin. And Steve Jobs.

And there are, of course, many others. You could surely add many names to this list... people with great and valuable talents who allowed their lives to slip away, merely because they did not take care of themselves.

So, my message and my plea for you today is to take care of yourself. Because if you smoke or misuse drugs, or if you drive carelessly, or neglect your diabetes... or if you do any of dozens of other foolish things that lead to your premature death... well, I will not be angry at you. I don’t know you from Adam. But you have friends and relatives who do. And after they have grieved, they will be angry at you because you have failed them. They deserve better than that. You owe them more than that.

You have been blessed with health and longevity to have lived this long. Do not waste the precious gift of life. There is a reason why you are still alive and healthy today. Do something. Do something good. Take care of yourself.

Start now. Life is short.

Take care of yourself. You still have work to do.

Please... take care of yourself.

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