- Posts: 3311
- Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 3:05 pm
- Location: The Four Corners
Jon St. Ives
â€œToday is my 210th birthday!â€
I remember my grandfather saying that very well. I was only fourteen at the time and the entire family, four hundred fifty strong, was standing in the grassy meadow on the slopes of Mt. Purgatory. Just behind him stood the family cabin, somewhat sagging and weather-beaten, but none the worse for its three-hundred-plus years of wear.
The wildflowers were in bloom since it was a pleasant August day, and a cool breeze was blowing the fragrance across the valley. Even above the voices I could hear the soft whooshing sound of the wind in the pines.
I loved the mountains. I was lucky because since I lived on Earth, I got to go to them at least four or five times a year. My cousins lived on Jupiter's moon, Io, at a mining facility, and watching them with their wide eyes and excited looks reminded me that I should never take things like this for granted.
As I looked around, I realized that the adults were very serious, whispering amongst each other and making the younger children nervous and excited. Many of the younger ones were talking to their expert programs on their wristcomps, asking questions or sending messages to their friends.
We had gathered to hear grandfather speak to the entire family. No one knew why he had called a complete family meeting. It was very rare for everyone in the entire family tree to get together. We had family reunions like everyone else, but those were regularly spaced at 5-year intervals.
It was only two years since the last one and travel expenses for some of us, especially those on the outer planets, was extremely expensive. So it was strange for grandfather to call for a gathering at this time. Everyone was there, though, and I gathered from my parents that grandfather had paid for travel and lodging for those who couldnâ€™t afford it on their own.
Grandfather was sitting on the front porch of the cabin in weather-beaten rocking chair, flanked by his sons and daughters. Finally he rose and walked to the front of the porch. He looked incredibly old to me. It wasnâ€™t just because he was the oldest person I knew, it was because he was so wrinkled, deeply tanned, age-spotted, and obviously old. Grandfather did not like biotechnology very much, so he showed the signs of age much more than the rest of us did, although he had given in to bloodstream nanobots when he had his heart attack about one hundred years ago.
â€œMy dear family,â€ he began, his voice horse and creaky but still deep with an undercurrent of strength, â€œtoday is my 210th birthday. In my wildest dreams as a young man, I never dreamed that I would see this day. For me, this day is an absolute miracle. I know it seems strange, but most of the people of my day, my parents and their parents, rarely lived beyond 100.â€
A murmur ran through the crowd at this statement, although everyone knew it to be true. It was just strange actually hearing someone talk about dying before 100. People still died that early, especially out in the asteroid belt. But people never died that young anymore unless they were the victims of an accident.
"I've resisted change mostly, and I know that has upset some of you." He continued, â€œIâ€™m willing to use the grown replacement organs. The transplant process is almost flawless now. My last heart transplant was nearly painless as a matter of fact!â€ He smiled for a moment, no doubt recalling his previous three heart transplants that were not so painless. â€œThe drugs and medicines that I take keep me feeling excellent except on the coldest of mornings up here.â€
â€œI have even made a few concessions to the new age. As most of you know, ten decades ago I got my nanobots and now those little buggers are traveling throughout my system fixing the damage of the ages.â€ He chuckled a little here. I thought that he must still think it strange to have microscopic robots swimming through his blood, matching DNA patterns, killing bad bacteria and viruses, and repairing free radical damage even though most children under eighteen had the nanobots in them from birth these days.
â€œNo,â€ he continued, â€œhaving the nanobots in my bloodstream never really upset me because itâ€™s still my own blood coursing through these old veins. Iâ€™m also grateful for the lack of pain at this point in my life.â€
â€œBut Iâ€™m most grateful of all to have lived to see my children and my childrenâ€™s children grow to be such a fine family! You have spread across the planets and the asteroid belts making homes and carrying forth our little clan on its great voyage into the future. I must confess that I feel a little like the last Centurion of Atlantis standing at the docks and seeing the final ship of colonists head for the other continents.â€
â€œYou were most likely expecting me to make The Decision today. I know that I am long overdue and many of you have chided me time and again for taking so long and putting off what is the most obvious choice for your generation. You may even think me a little selfish since, in the state I am in now, itâ€™s not much fun to have to drag me around. I canâ€™t run, swim, or play with the little ones. Nor can I climb, bike, and fly with the older of my children.â€
â€œI know that all of you who are older than eighteen have already made The Decision and I understand perfectly that there is no danger and that the process has been completely perfected. My doctor tells me that after countless billions of transfers, not one in a million has a flaw nowadays, and even then the flaw was easily corrected with another upload phase.â€
â€œI understand all that. Unfortunately, I do not have the news you expected.â€
â€œI will not be making The Decision at all.â€
At this, the crowd let out a roar of surprise, shock, and confusion. Men shouted to grandfather, â€œBut you canâ€™t! What about the family?â€ Women gathered the children that were in danger of being trampled. Some of them began to cry. The entire field was a tumult of voices, protests, and motion. The crowd surged forward towards the porch.
â€œStop!â€ My grandfather shouted, his voice carrying the full authority of a six-generational family behind it. The crowd grew quiet again. All eyes were on grandfather now.
â€œListen to me and understand,â€ he said, his voice taking on a very tired note. â€œYou know that I love all of you dearly. What I do today I know will hurt you all and I am truly sorry for that. But your way is not mine. I am not going to follow the family into gigaspace. My brain will not be engrammed and downloaded to the beautiful new machine bodies that all of you have. I realize that means that all of my memories will be lost to the family, but I have written a diary during the last fifty years that I hope will go a little way in solving that problem.â€
â€œPlease spare me any lectures on the loss of my â€œsoulâ€ or any other such nonsense. I'm not afraid of that. All I have to do is to spend time with any of you adults to know that you are just the same person you were before you gave up the flesh and became android.â€
â€œSuffice to say I have my reasons and they are my own. I will not change my mind. Immortality is not for me. Tonight, I have instructed the doctor to nullify my nanobots and let me die a peaceful death with my family beside me. Itâ€™s the way my father died and his father before him and itâ€™s my wish to leave you this way too.â€
With that he turned and stepped back into the cabin. His oldest children followed him, many with tears in their eyes. The family stood stock-still and dumbfounded in the field for the space of a minute. Then they slowly began to wend their way back down to the camping areas and cabins below. They spoke in low voices between themselves, but I could catch a bit of it.
â€œOnce heâ€™s made up his mind thereâ€™s no changing it, stubborn old man.â€
â€œIâ€™ll never understand the old coot, but I sure do love him.â€
â€œMommy? Does that mean that grandpa will go away?â€
â€œYes dear. Weâ€™ll go say goodbye to him later tonight.â€
â€œHuh. I think heâ€™s just being foolish and selfish!â€
â€œFrank! Not in front of the children!â€
Yes, I can remember that day as clear as if it was yesterday, although three million years have passed now. Iâ€™ve thought a lot about it as the years passed. Many, many times I wished grandfather could have been the rest of the family and I on our grand adventures.
I wished he could have seen the Tauran Nebula, the Volcanoes of Aldebarran, the Milky Way from above the plane of the ecliptic, or that radiation storm by Beta Lyrae that was a hundred light years across, filled with static discharge and light.
- Posts: 6632
- Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 3:17 pm
- Posts: 3311
- Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 3:05 pm
- Location: The Four Corners