A life can be measured in a variety of ways. Most customary are calendar years, but except for birthdays, Driver’s Licenses, Voting, Social Security, and Medicare that approach is hardly an increment that shapes all people. Haphazard events, personal, national, or global can chisel changes as permanent, and indelible as any wrinkle or gray hair.
In River of January my central characters celebrated long lives filled with extraordinary adventures. Montgomery “Chum” Chumbley came of age in an uncertain world of rural isolation. His was a harsh environment of feast or famine, drought or flood, butchering livestock for food, and cruel, sweaty labor. His life offered narrow and limited opportunities–still trapped in the unchanging mold of the 19th Century.
William Howard Taft presided over the White House the year Chum was born. There were no niceties like electricity or indoor plumbing in his world. In fact the White House itself had barely installed electricity, running water, or a shelter for automobiles. Yet, by the time of Chum’s death in 2006, George W. Bush had ordered spying satellites and drones over Iraq, and NASA’s Space Shuttle program was headed into retirement. The last years of his life, Chum used a computer to keep up with his friends, and along with his television, he was current on world affairs.
Taft to Bush, seventeen presidents. He lived seventeen presidents. I’ve only lived through eleven. My parents thirteen so far, and my own kids, five.
How old are you in president years?