Just found a blog I wrote at eighty (now staggering toward 82). I don’t intend to stop groping for new things to say, but for eight years of grade school I recited the Pledge of Allegiance daily, with scant effect, so a bit of repetition may be excused.
Last week I turned eighty. Though I received many congratulations, this was not entirely of my doing. In part, it was due to the medical establishment, who cured many discomforts for me. In part, to my wife, who’s cooked my supper for sixty years, paid the bills, and did services too numerous or personal to mention. In large part, it was the achievement of my mother, who did the hard work of labor and worked many jobs to keep me alive until I got my own job—and managed to survive my adolescence.
I did some work at it too. Beyond that, what’s left to say? I’m in good health, beyond chronic complaints which might kill me if something else doesn’t do it first. I’m a compulsive worker, though the work now serves only the purpose of keeping me out of trouble. I’m immensely proud of my wife and my children, both. I enjoy food and sex and the ocean and blessed sleep. I wish I could travel more and talk with people, but I’ve always been very shy. In a way I hate to read, because there’s so much to read that I’ll never read, and I’m so slow, which occurs to me every time I turn the page. I’m obsessed with all the great mysteries for which I’m clueless forever.
I’ve been all over the United States and Europe, a bit in Canada and Mexico, a week in Israel before the first Intifada. I’ve been part of the theatre community on many levels, plus public radio, puppetry, Boy Scouts, polyamory, Unitarians, Friends, neo-pagan circles, and the social-services realm—not all simultaneously (which is part of the virtues of being eighty—you’ve lived so many lives in so many worlds).
I’ve had a fellow traveler. We met when I was 19, she was 20, and it was a lightning-swift bond. We found a common career, like all my relatives (who were farmers), and nurtured each others’ growth into something reasonably humanoid. Many long nights, some ecstatic, a few otherwise.
What’s the result?
I have two grown children of whom I’m immensely proud, both creative, both well partnered, both human in most all senses of the word. I have a mate who’s more than I’ve ever thought possible in a mate. I have two cats, pure devils.
I vote, and sometimes post screeds on Facebook, but I’m more critical of my own tribe, their tactics and vocabulary, than of the dullards and monsters the next valley down. Not that I’m more offended by bad spelling than genocide, but frankly I’m too chicken to man the barricades, and I don’t consider posts on Facebook more than a hobby.
I have no apparent career. I’ve spent my life in theatre, directed about a hundred shows, written 50+, sculpted 18 bins of puppets, but that’s all dead and buried. We’ve done some very good radio work. We’ve renovated three spaces as theatres, but none are theatres now. We’ve written forty plays, two hundred sketches, ten novels and 60+ stories with very scant reputation or readership. Yet we’ve earned a living doing it, worked to the bone, and had fun. Right now, in relation to those worlds, I feel much as I did in high school: out of the center of things.
Getting past the age of fifteen, you start to think of death. At forty, it becomes real. At eighty, it’s a package you expect in the mail, though you can’t recall calling in the order. Nor have they sent the tracking number, but given deliveries these days, who can tell? I’m in good health, and other than groping for names and words, I’m sentient and ambulatory. Main worry is that no way can I leave my campsite cleaner than I found it, but I don’t want to leave a mess.
Both my parents are dead, and many friends. Oddly, I’ve never felt grief, just a sense of fate, maybe a trait of my farmer genes. I would hope to spare my loved ones pain, but the only way to be sure of that is to stay alive. Though I still aspire to wisdom.