Sunday, March 10, 2013

Preparing to Be Eighty

Birthdays like this one are speed bumps. They slow you down to assess. If no severe tire damage you get back meandering with wonderment, glad to have been allotted this particular chunk of time in this most hospitable place with these loving people to accompany you.

When the equinox goes vernal in about ten days I enter the octogenarian club. My hope is to not start acting my age. It has taken me eighty years to become this old and yet…. I’m not quite ready. I don’t feel crotchety or dotty though I might be the last to know … and surely not wise enough. The only wisdom I have is that I have none, demonstrable every day.

True, I fall asleep during movies, get out-of-breath looking for the phone, require my Metamucil, miss about 10% of what is said by friends in noisy restaurants, require extra light to read, forget where I parked my car and remember things that probably never happened.

Last night I forgot how to sleep, too far from that embryonic sea. I know enough to close my eyes, get comfortable, empty my already-empty mind…and then what? Unfinished business intrudes. Business, what business? It could be an un-sent email, something I meant to refrigerate or defrost or worse. What shall I write about when I have nothing to say, sort of like now. Science talks about the blood-brain barrier. Maybe age thins it to a more permeable membrane and my approaching birthday may be telling me to shut up.

I’m slowly getting to accept the number. 80 is so curvaceous, so cuddly; three bubbles reconfigured. It is a child’s mouth singing, ring around the rosy or a snowman made from circles of snow. There’s nothing angular or hard edged about it. To get here one must circumnavigate. You have to admire it for that.

Yesterday’s lunch with three friends was called off; each of us with some infirmity. So many body parts withering and dithering and all out-of-warranty. Too much wear and tear, old plumbing, sun on skin, so heedless were we. True I did grow up on cod liver oil, scrubbed myself raw with Lava soap and ate my share of calf’s liver. Yet all those Necco Wafers, Eskimo Pies, Reuben sandwiches and Danish pastries will probably sink me on a Tuesday instead of a Thursday. Who knew?

There is a kindness in not seeing ourselves as others see us. Our eyes age along with all the rest. It wouldn’t surprise me to know that I look so feeble Rosa Parks would have gotten up and offered me her seat.

The longer I live the more incoherent life appears to be. Melody has been drummed out of music, rhyme from poetry, beauty from Art, narrative from books. Life is, of course, atonal, unrhymed, disarrayed and random…yet, if only. So I write as a way of wrestling the beast looking for patterns until I begin to hear a faint music I can tap my toe to and enter the collage.

I haven’t any idea how most things work. Aliens from neighboring galaxies would find me of no use. Clearly our government is dysfunctional, both organically and functionally.  As George Burns said, Too bad all the people that know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair. In truth it is all easily fixable except to those willfully deaf to remedy.  

Information and knowledge seem to be at inverse proportions. Even beyond that, cause is at far remove from consequence for too many people. I can’t decide whether this is my diminishing vision or I’m seeing better into the muddle that has always been. Irresolution may be real life but many of us, at a certain age, prefer the illusion of a good short story, however tall.

I think I’m ready now; I’m rambling. Take me away where I can look back to see the imagined beginning and middle. I’ll write my own end.

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