The Use of Talking

There is no end of things in the heart.

September Song

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Well, it’s a long, long time
From May to December.
But the days grow short,
When you reach September . . .

That song has always been a favorite of mine. I’m a fan of the bittersweet, be it chocolate or songs. This May, though, the song hits closer to home. Back in October I officially become a “senior citizen.”

Nicholas_Roerich_in_Tibetan_RobeThe thing of it is, I don’t feel like one. When I look in the mirror, I don’t feel resigned or indignant; I’m incredulous, wondering where this old man with the white beard and the neck bands (that’s what Google says they are) came from. I’m bewildered when someone offers me a seat on the subway. Can’t he see that I’m just as capable of standing as he is?

At sixty-five, I ought to be wiser than I was as a twenty- or thirty- or forty-year-old, at least a little. But somehow I find myself repeating the old mistakes and making new ones.

At sixty-five, I should have accumulated a useful stock of knowledge. After all, I’ve lived with (and in) books all my life, and I’ve always used them as both a resource and a refuge. Instead, I’m constantly reminded of how much I don’t know, of the deep waters I really can’t swim in. (The internet makes it worse; I discover my limitations there every day.)

At sixty-five,, I ought to be able to look back with some satisfaction at what I’ve done. But even my genuine accomplishments (and I do have some, starting with my five children) can be sources of regret for things not done or not done as well as they should have been.

Now, being sixty-five does have its advantages. There all those senior privileges: discounts at museums, on carfare, even at the opera; kind young folks giving you a seat on the subway even if you really don’t want one. And there are the drawbacks as well, aside from having a closer look at the guy who played chess with Max von Sydow in The Seventh Seal.  It may be because I was so late coming to that road I was talking about, but I’m pretty tired of people looking at my son and me and complimenting me on my good-looking grandson. And then there are the disappointments—believe me, not retiring to Florida or Arizona isn’t one of them. In my feyer moods, I thought I’d give myself permission to be eccentric—all right, more eccentric—when I reached this milestone. I saw myself parading around the neighborhood in oriental robes, like Nicolas Roerich (that’s him on the upper left), or at least wearing a homburg and carrying a walking stick. But Mrs. C. put the kibosh on that. Maybe when, Deo volente, I turn seventy, she’ll relent.

Oh, and if you have a homburg or a walking stick you’re looking to get rid of, drop me an email.

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Written by hans castorp

May 2, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Autobiography

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