Very early, I drove Elizabeth to the bus stop. Much easier to do the 7-mile trip to the bus than the 2-hour drive to SFO. She’ll be gone for eight days, visiting her special stones in France, while I’m surviving here.
It’s always strange. Long ago we realized that we spend so much time in each other’s hip pockets that it’s good to take some time alone. Mostly, that’s a single day, but sometimes it’s more extended. As we get longer in the tooth it’s more difficult—I spent a week walking London in the wrong shoes and still show bruised toes—but until we’re stretched out dead, we’ll persist.
Providing for absence, it’s much more than just the feeding schedule for cats. This time, it’s brought home to me just how ignorant I am of basic things. The cats and the garden, of course, but much more. How to replenish the pump if the water fails; how to turn off the power if there’s a surge; how to operate Messenger for voice-to-voice; how to tend my various wounds and disabilities; etc. etc. etc.
My long-ago Ph.D. (near mythical by now) didn’t really prepare me for practical matters. I know I’m not entirely in the clouds—doing yardwork and dish-washing and layouts and writing and whatever’s needful in the day—but I’m so dependent on this woman, not only to haul my ashes but to tend my fires.
The things I took pride in—acting, directing, design, playwriting, puppet sculpting—and the things I had to do to support these—writing grants and news releases, designing promo, sorting bulk mail—are things of the past. They’ve left memories, but they’ve also left piles of paper, computer files, and eighteen bins of puppets for our kids to dispose of when we croak. They’re valued parts of a goddamned interesting life, but they’re no longer marks of achievement.
I tend to disparage myself, but that’s a pose. I blame my mother for an overinflated sense of my self-value. From the earliest I can remember, I’ve held two attitudes: first, that I’m vastly superior to the bulk of humanity (an attitude that has the saving grace of holding myself to a much higher standard); secondly, that no one will recognize it. That still holds.
It’s a challenge, but those times apart are treasured. Perhaps mostly because they force the question, a hard one to answer, “Who am I now?”
And age has its rewards, even apart from 60+ years with this woman. You realize how few artists are truly immortal, and your work is likely superior to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, though not to Dickens. You take pride in your children. You find love in your mate. You last as long as you can, and you’re finally grateful for all the help that you get.