“Age is opportunity no less,than youth itself, though in another dress. And as the evening twilight fades away, the sky is filled by the stars invisible by the day.”

3 Jun

A perfect day Elise: PJ Harvey

I’ve always loved this song. The tension, the pacing of the story, the vividness of the setting despite so few words. It would play itself out so clearly in my head.

To imagine that it’s 10 years old-meaning I’m ten years older. That it still has the same kind of hold on me…

I think a lot about aging, on how I still feel 17 inside, where it counts, but my knee kills when I jog and I can’t eat raw broccoli anymore. I think of it as spaces, bubbles that intersect, co-mingle, but never truly merge. We float into each age, effortlessly in some cases, kicking and screaming in others. Are some of us old souls, unfazed by the passage of years, knowing that they are ultimately meaningless, while others are young, too young, and are angered by responsibility and necessity? Do our stories ever merge?

I spend a lot of my time in public staring at other people. I always have. There’s something fascinating in the little tidbits people let slip. How they adjust their underthings when they believe no one is watching. How they drink their coffee. How they smoke a cigarette. If the person with them is a lover. Who they are, who they’ve been. A story in each individual spark, waiting to be told. A life lived. A baby suckled. A child held, and released. A teenager who danced, or lied to join the war. A young adult, faced with marriage, a job, or the agony of choosing their life work. And old man, staring at his hands and wishing. The loves that danced between, the loves lost, the lives stolen, children snatched.

Artwork that has never seen light. Music never sung. Voices squandered. I imagine every single one of those people a book, covered in rough leather, bound tight to be opened. It’s a mighty cliche, but I see volumes stacked on a shelf in these lives, the moments left to memory that only become real when spoken.

Old age has never scared me. I never imagined that I’d turn into a wrinkled crone, handing apples out to fair maidens. Maybe the image I hold in my head of my mother forms my view on aging-that it means grace, and dignity and wisdom. That it represents coming through and out from the events that tear your life asunder, and arriving at a delicate moth wing of a place where the air is cool with petals and sweet wind and you can breathe and just be, convinced that you are who you should be and that all else matters little. In my mind, my mother is this person-secure and stable in herself, clinging to the mast inside, spine firm and rigid, yet just curved enough to weather the storm.

Of course, she never completed her voyage. She never became a crone in the strictest sense of the word. Her art, her songs, her music died inside her, and has left me searching ever since in the faces of the old for pieces of her, slivers in grey eyes, giggles on blue dresses, a smirk in a corner. My guide in age has left, but has also left me fearless, aware that I walk into the unknown, head high, playing out my own story.

I am roughly the age now that she was when I was adopted. When I was placed in her arms and told “You are her mother now.” When my life became hers, when old age meant my grandchildren surrounding her on a chair listening to her stories about how frightened I was of some silly old Venus Fly Trap and how I couldn’t be trusted to walk home alone, my head in the clouds searching for dreams and leprechauns.  Right now, she would have become a mother to a daughter, and her hopes, her own questions for mortality and aging, for then, and forever and someday would have crystallized into one moment, one song –

I love you.

Age is meaningless. I look into the eyes of my children, and see my mother looking back. Not through blood, but through will and spirit, through the eyes of the older gentleman that seem to say “You’re doing just fine” through the mouths of the old ladies who dote and squeeze and love so unconditionally that I want to run screaming into their arms asking HOW! How did they do this, losing sons, husbands, sisters, friends, until it’s just them, waiting, biding their time and asking where did it all go? In their eyes my mother is 16 and dancing to Elvis, waiting for her true love.

In their eyes, future and past tell their stories to each other, and bubbles burst into the air, showering us with quiet memory. And I wonder where 10 years have gone so quickly.

 

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4 Responses to ““Age is opportunity no less,than youth itself, though in another dress. And as the evening twilight fades away, the sky is filled by the stars invisible by the day.””

  1. sweetsalty kate June 3, 2008 at 10:23 pm #

    “How did they do this, losing sons, husbands, sisters, friends, until it’s just them, waiting, biding their time and asking where did it all go?”

    I still can’t imagine how this will feel. I think, in a large part, that’s why we rely so much on our children – to be some kind of enduring proof that we were here at all. There must be some comfort in that.

    gorgeous post, thor.

  2. Bon June 4, 2008 at 8:44 am #

    this has left me weeping and breathless, both in the best way.

    i watched my grandmother become one of those old women, losing almost everyone around her, still standing as tall as she could, railing at the loss of her independence. inside, i think she was still the seventeen year old girl you write about and will probably write about when the PJ Harvey song is seventy years old, not ten.

  3. thordora June 4, 2008 at 9:49 am #

    kate-sometimes I think I never wanted kids because i wanted to negate my existence, erase myself, leave no record.

    That sucks just to write.

    Plus, without kids, there would be no one to worry about for when I’m gone. It always seemed so much simpler.

    oh bon, your nan….

  4. Jenn June 5, 2008 at 7:19 am #

    you write so vividly and beautifuly, your words explode into images for me that play behind my eyes and in front of your words. I love reading your thoughts.
    this post brought me right back to an experience I had years ago. An old lady was hit by a car on the street I live on. I was driving by and noticed that people were just standing around her in a circle, staring. I stopped and hopped out of the car. I pushed everyone away from her and kneeled down in front of her, cradles her head in my hands and talked to her. As I talked to her she was exactly what you described, bubbles of her life, she was 6 and scared, she was 20 and beautiful, she was 60 and knowing all at one moment bubbles exploding together with the experience. Her life fading for her, one single tear escaping her eye coming to a rest on my knee, her bubbles transplanting this experience into me, that moment shared between two stranger on a dark rainy night when her life ceased to exist on this plant, leaving with me her story to carry her story forward.

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