Saturday, December 21, 2013

In Memorium

"Memory is the thing you forget with." 
~ Alexander Chase    

Spend some time with any senior citizen and inevitably a comment (or dissertation) is made regarding memory.  Or more accurately, memory loss.  I hear myself saying, often out loud, "now, why did I come in this room?"....or "where did I keys, a book, my purse, that letter," etc., etc.   

Spend time with a group of senior citizens and a deeper conversation occurs.  "Are you experiencing the same challenges?" "Do you worry that this may signify something worse?"  "I hate this!"  Nervous laughter, reassurances usually follow.  

I remember having a brain scan a couple years ago and reading the report..."a normal, aging brain."  I didn't know whether to be relieved or offended.  I did some research, however, just to be reassured that I was indeed normal.  So, for the most part, I don't worry that my lapses in memory mean anything more catastrophic.

What is more intriguing to me these days is why I remember what I do remember and what triggers the memories.  Just two days ago, while watching Turner Classic Movie's day of musicals (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly classics), there was a memorium for industry personalities that passed away this year.  You know, the kind of tribute done yearly at the Oscars.  Well, that one I've come to expect.  This one came as a surprise.  The list itself was also a surprise - Esther Williams, Dennis Farina, Jean Stapleton, Eileen Brennan, Michael Ansara, Karen Black, Eleanor Parker, Tom Clancy, Roger Ebert, Steve Forrest, Jack Klugman,  Peter O'Toole - at least 20 names I recognized and another dozen faces I have come to know over the years in various character roles.  The number stunned me.

And with it, a flood of memories - the TV series, the iconic roles (Edith Bunker, Hot Lips Hoolihan, Lawrence of Arabia, Cochise), the people I saw the movies or series with (some no longer a part of my life), the music, and the young woman, even the little girl I was when I first encountered them.  

In the couple days that have followed, I have seen this clip again.  Now, expecting it, some of the surprise, the sadness, and the nostalgia has passed.  And what has surfaced next is the awareness that many of these names no longer mean much to people even a few years younger than I - or other fans of TCM,.  Joan Fontaine, Audrey Totter, John Kerr, Dale Robertson.  Oh yes, I know that every generation has to face this phenomenon, but it is still a bit disconcerting whenever it happens.  Yes, it certainly has struck me before - who were the Beatles? What was polio? Did you really walk to school in the snow?  You didn't have.....!!!!??

So what makes this experience more poignant?  The sheer number of personalities?  The realization that many of these names may mean little or nothing to many Americans?  Or the recognition that they do mean a lot to me and that is another reminder of the passage of time, of my aging? Of my own mortality?

Maybe I'll skip the memorium segment of the Oscars this year.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

"Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old."    
                                                                            ~Franz Kafka

I love a good quote.  One that expresses what I'm thinking or feeling, succinctly, or lyrically.  One that inspires me to see the world in a new way.  Or captures an opinion with compassion or humor.  

I've started to collect quotes about aging, thinking they'd make great intros to these postings. Been amazed to see how many are out there, how many seem so apropos.  I don't memorize many - these days I'm lucky to remember why I've gone to another room!  But I glance over them now and then, usually when I'm being particularly reflective or when I'm considering something to write.  It still can surprise me to come upon a quote that seems to leap off the page, so perfect is it for the moment or circumstance.

Take this Kafka quote.  And this scene....

This is St. George.  This is our street.  This is the aftermath of 6 inches of snow, and the lowest temperatures recorded here in 74 years.  This is a city with one snowplow (assigned full time to the local airport) and many snowbirds who live here partime to escape these very conditions. A city with many  folks who don't know how to drive on snow.  Who don't own a shovel and don't want tol  Some folks who saw this storm only as an inconvenience, something to be endured.

And others who took it all in with wonder and joy.  Who delighted in watching children build snowmen.  Who took the opportunity to revisit the storms of their childhood that shut down school and brought with them tunnels and forts and snowball fights.  Who bundled up and captured the beauty as best they could.

Yesterday I attended an event where everyone was over 60 and the difference in the two points of view was glaringly apparent.  In the very absence of any negativity, any complaining from those who attended ...arriving in cars driven by those with four wheel drive.  Walking cautiously over ice lest they fall and break a hip!  Holding on to one another, and "laughing all the way." Greeting each other with "Isn't it beautiful?!"  Sharing stories of the snowstorms of their childhood or removing snow from their driveways with a broom, even a rake.  The room was filled with laughter, enthusiasm, and delight.  

This is my book club - 20 or so men and women whose company I treasure.  I would have said I treasure them because they are bright and curious, respectful of each other's opinions, diverse in life experiences, and rich in skills and talents.  They are. Today, I understand another contribution they make to my life.  They have the "ability to see beauty" and revel in it.  And so, without saying it, they refuse to grow old.  So do I!!!

p.s.  In case I don't post again before the New Year, happy holidays to all and may you be surrounded by beauty.