of elms. She looked at them
awhile out of
the ambulance window and said,
What are all those
fuzzy-looking things out there?
Trees? Well, I'm tired
of them and rolled her head away.
From The Last Words of My English Grandmother by William Carlos Williams
I have observed that as you get older, the list of things you care about gets shorter.
At sixty-eight, I'm beginning to wonder if the same thing is happening to me. I know that at one time there were at least six TV shows I enjoyed. Now there are only two and, half the time, I'm lukewarm about those.
Not that I was ever a big TV watcher.
Sometimes I surf the Internet, checking facts and word definitions. Often the latter are things I used to know and have forgotten due to the inevitable winking out of overburdened neurons.
I like to shop, too, but after the first fifteen minutes surrounded by merchandise of one kind or another, the euphoria wears off and I begin to imagine tiny Asian children hunched over conveyor belts.
Everything hanging on racks or displayed on shelves begins to look like potential landfill material. I feel as if I'm on some sort of junkie's treadmill, pushing my cart in circles round and around the store. What did I come here for anyway? Do I really need those?
I used to enjoy music, too, but lately I find there's nothing I'm really in the mood to hear. If I do listen to music, I'm apt to play the same song over and over because...well because it's the only one I care to hear.
Yes, yes, I manage to get out -- to socialize, if you will. In the last couple of months I've been to luncheons, breakfast gatherings, even a dinner party. I'm on the substitute list for the local elementary schools. I'm a paid babysitter and -- more often -- an unpaid one. My six-year-old grandson and I are virtually joined at the hip.
Truth to tell, old age isn't much fun. Why would it be? When you bend, your knees crackle and creak like hinges on thin wood. You're lucky if you hear half of what people say, and you can never predict which seemingly innocent foods will exile you to the bathroom for hours on end. Meanwhile, your face looks like the cross between a raisin and the surface of the moon. Depending on your current food plan, you are either paunchy or bony -- never buxom or slim. You can exercise all you want and pour vitamins down your throat but -- face it -- you'll never really look good again.
AH, BUT THIS IS HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE, HOW NATURE SET THINGS UP!
You're born...you grow up...you grow old.
You face death -- a skeleton with a scythe, Charon poling across the River Styx, a hooded wraith challenging you to a last game of chess.
You wonder who the hell set all this up. Could they not have thought up a less depressing progression? A more joyful set of transitions?
If you're Christian, it all makes sense. The toil and tedium of a human life ends in heavenly bliss. All the dead sit around on clouds chatting and eating angel food cake.
My question is this: why was it ever necessary for them to suffer? Does the frosting taste sweeter after swallowing so many bitter pills? Is the cloud only soft when contrasted with the hardness of a hospital bed?
I really don't get it and I never will.
One thing that's still on my Things I Like list is the first cup of morning coffee along with two pieces of toast smeared with spreadable fruit.
I also like to look out my window and see snow falling softly, quietly, wrapping the earth in peace.
I like the way my grandson's small, brown body leans into me while I read to him.
as I go past.