Life is short, they say, and I repeat it, although I don't think I really believe it. After all, I'm 73 and still going pretty strong, retired but still doing lots of stuff, so to me “retired” means “free,” not decrepit. I don't really see the end, it's still an abstraction.
Until I look at myself in the mirror, that is, and catch a glimpse as I turn around and wonder who that guy is with a gray beard and eyes that have some crackles around them, and wonder if I will ever look like I did when I was 25, which is the way I should look, I think, but which I guess I won't.
My son Allie is 44 and is in the next room sitting with his computer on his lap doing things that I can't exactly comprehend because he is, after all, an engineer, and I'm not. He used to be 10 when I was 39 and now he's not and I'm not, but it still doesn't feel like the end. I still think I could do lots of things if I wanted to, except that my lower back hurts a lot.
When I see myself in the mirror I wonder if Allie sees that I'm getting older. I guess he does. I didn't see my father continuously as he got older because he lived in Philadelphia and I lived in Berkeley, and I resisted thinking he was getting older. I didn't quite believe it. The power of denial is strong, especially in me. He was cashing out and I still wasn't believing he was actually that old, although he was 92 and I was sure to keep getting back to Philadelphia very often at the end, every other weekend the last two months, because then I believed the end was coming, although it took the actual end and my crying convulsively to really believe it was the end. It still didn't seem as though life was short, it's just that it ended. I still wish I could show him our Hawaii house, and Lola, and now little Tete Shenkin, wistfully.
I wonder what Allie thinks. We talked briefly yesterday here on vacation and I mentioned that I figured I had 10 years, anyway, although you never know. He's got a new baby, his first, he got his PhD last year, so he still feels like he's beginning. It must be hard to think that his dad, who he remembers so well, but not the time we played together in our first apartment in Stockholm and he climbed onto the desk with a smile, and not the time we sped away in my little $2,800 Alph Romeo to the YMCA in New Haven to swim – no seat belts then, that his dad is getting pretty much older and even wonders when he will cash in his chips. He probably doesn't think too much about it. He lives in Oxford now, we are in Berkeley, and even though we are psychically close, we don't see each other that much, and he has a career and I have enough money that he will inherit that he is not at all dependent on me now, so he probably doesn't think about it at all. He's done a lot so life probably doesn't seem so short to him now. Maybe it will as Tete, his daughter, grows up. That's probably what makes you think it's short, because kids grow fast, faster than we decline.
Actually, life doesn't seem that short. Just shorter than we would like, as long as we're healthy. If you fill it up with things, and make sure you don't wish for more than you can reasonably do. I guess.