the bottoms of my trousers rolled
January 2, 2004 10:54 AM

It is too easy to think of aging like Prufrock, all collapsed and British. Sharp-edged with regret.

I used to think of being old like that. Used to think with an adolescent's eyes. The age I tied to Prufrock was - what, forty? Maybe. Maybe twenty-five. I don't know. I have (had) issues.

This has been a recent theme to my life. Not aging as something I experience today. [Hello! I'm 28! That's so unbelievably far from old.] But something I might know some day. I hope not to feel sharp edges, not be an exploded paper bag or a deflated beach ball of a person/mind.

Essentially, my grandmothers represent to me all that I don't wish to be. It's supposed to be your mother you fear becoming, and while mine - like Kali - has her negative aspects, it is their mothers I wouldn't want. They use old age like a protective shield; it's a teflon excuse for that which they cannot do. How much of that is biochemistry and how much is just plain unpleasantness?

One of them is actually just not there. It is chemistry, for her, I think. And chemistry has to be forgiven. At least, it seems easily forgivable in others, people you never need interact with.

What is it like for people who are close to their families to watch its members age in this collapsing way? Are they annoyed or just sad? Is pure grief easier or harder? I wouldn't know, not deeply at least.

I'm starting to know what I want for myself. Given these models of what I want and don't want to endure, or have others endure. I imagine I can do something about this, since the collapse seems to have happened for these family members I don't know even when I was a child and they were fifty-something, still young. Their own parents were alive and vibrant. How much can they control their living decomposition, these collapsing folk? I wonder if they can or could have stopped this gracelessness, whether it was something they facilitated, fought, or capitulated to. They can't tell me.

There are artists, even mad ones, who continue to produce until they fall over dead at their easels and kilns. There are octagenarian aerobics instructors and scholars and martial artists.

There are people who make it into and out of their seventies active, creative, and present. I'd like to be one of them.

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