The hardest age by far is the one where you are stuck in the middle, children below, parents above, and utterly no hope of escape from the vise. Things your mother could do effortlessly now seem impossible for her, and those things now need doing immediately. Your children, ever wise at creating novel approaches to anything they want in life regardless of your opinion, suddenly cannot perform the simple tasks they once could, more so if the task takes them away from whatever is their pleasure of the moment. It is this middle period where you cease to live, at least to live fully, taken with tasks above and below, and only in the rare spare moment can you contemplate the tasks you will no longer be able to do as soon as your children cease to be a burden and can be one
She stares at the menu, her eyes incandesce brighter than an eight year old’s should be able. And I can eat everything on the menu, she says to herself, her smile broadening, as she thinks and they may enjoy it too, and I can move them one more step in the right direction. She has been a vegetarian for six months, since the day she declared to the waiter that she would never again eat a dead animal, and she has held to it without fail since. She says her father is almost a pescatarian, and she whispers in an aside that close to vegetarian and an easy move once you are there. Her four year old brother laughs and says today I’m vegetarian too, and the waitress laughs and thinks in a vegan restaurant, that is a universal truth.
We now live in a strange world where nothing is as it was mere weeks ago. I am blessed to live on a small nature preserve and have been spending my afternoons with camera in hand. So if you want something other than words (which follow) you are welcome to visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/98342503@N00/, my Flickr site, which is updated daily. A sample of what you will find:
It seems odd how often our fathers depart suddenly, our mothers make a slower retreat, slipping away while always still present, a death by 1000 days, the cuts inflicted on our psyche, small wounds that never fully heal, but fade, so the scars are only seen and felt from the inside. My parents never did things as expected, so my mother complained bitterly of the small difficulties of life, until the morning she suddenly departed, at the stroke of 6:15 while my father lingers, still happy in ever shortening increments, both of us knowing he is fading away and I may never know he has departed after he is gone.
My mother was a firm believer In lecturing, offering vast bits of knowledge, culled from here and there. One of her favorites was Edison’s 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, and she leaned toward quantity, “It’s all about hard work, go clean your room, clutter will get you nowhere.” Sitting here today amid what I prefer to think of as eclectically arranged items of potentially great importance, I see her picture, before the chemo took her bottled red hair looking disapprovingly at me, saying, “You are killing your genius, Edison would agree with me.” I want to say to her, “But I’m with Einstein and if a cluttered desk is evidence of a cluttered mind, why was hers always empty.
I have fond memories of a childhood I never lived. Those are the best childhoods from for they reflect life as you meant it to be lived. In this life my father is in his late nineties, still smiles when he sees me, not didn’t clutch his chest sixty-one years ago, didn’t fall to the floor, didn’t leave me half an orphan again, doesn’t live only in the periphery of my dreams.
In this place there is a fatted, sacrificial silence. It is the large Jewish Cemetery nestling the road where Maryland and the District are loosely stitched together. It is a small plot goldenrod dirt outskirting Lisbon.
This ground is sacred not for the blessing of one who has taken the tallit of holiness. The sanctity of this ground leaches from the simple pine boxes that return with the body to the soil.
The stones, mostly simple with neatly incised Hebrew inscriptions are all blank to me, worn smooth by memory denied.
I place my ear carefully to each, wanting to hear a voice, a fractured whisper that will resonate in the hollow spaces.
I pass by those with shared names for if he or she is here each must share the isolation they willed me. I look at the faces of passing mourners — none resemble the morning mirror.
I grow tired of the search, sit in the paltry shade of the ricinus plant knowing we both will be gone by sundown.
First Appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005
I’ll be there soon, so hang in there just a bit longer. I do want to meet the beautiful young woman you mentioned in our calls, or is there more than one, because while your vision is supposed to be good, it seems almost all women younger than a certain ever-increasing age are now beautiful to you. I don’t want to tell you I’m coming, you’d forget anyway, and it could agitate you, so I’ll just show up and hope you remember me or can cover well, and we’ll visit. I know the week after we see each other you’ll ask when I’m coming to see you, and like I have for years, I’ll say, “Soon, dad” and I know you’ll be smiling in anticipation.
Sitting on the fourth shelf from the top, in the second rank of bookcases in my office is a somewhat worn copy Dylan Thomas is “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.” I can’t admit to ever having read it, or an ability to now recall if I did, but I know I’ve had several young dogs in my 66 years, but none were particularly artistic; but perhaps I set too high a standard as they did seem to treat the white tiles in the foyer of my parents suburban home as a canvas on rainy spring days, very much to my mother’s dismay.
He will be 90 in a few weeks. He doesn’t think this is possible. He says he wasn’t supposed to live this long. He asks again how old he is. You’re still 89, I tell him. He has a relieved look on his face. Then he smiles at me, says, that means you are pretty old yourself. I begrudgingly agree, though only out of necessity. Two weeks ago he was certain he was on the verge of death. Today he says he is fine, says he heard someone claim to be dying but can’t imagine who it was. Perhaps it was in his dreams, he says. He goes back to watching television intently. Tomorrow he won’t recall what he watched, or perhaps that he watched. But he knows he will be 90 soon, or something like it.