Backtracking & Aging In The Dance of Life

8 Minute Or Less Read Time
Backtracking & Aging In The Dance of Life

Fuckin’ Birthday Boy

Do yerself a favor… die young…

“So”, she asks, “It’s yer birthday, anything special you wanna do?”

We been married for a lotta years a lot... But I’m obviously a slow learner, So I answer,

“Yeah, I’m 75. . . but I still like sex, so let’s lay around in bed all-day and do that…”

“You mean make love?” she asks.

And I THINK; “Nah, I mean tear your clothes off and get drunk on tequila and watch porno and do everything I can think of which includes a ton of nasty shit you don’t even wanna do!” But instead, I answer, “Yes, make love.”

She says, “We have to take the dog for a walk first.”

I say, “Okay, a quick walk, like to Udall Park.”

“No,” she interrupts, “too much dust there at Udall, and I have to be careful, what with my recent pneumonia; let’s go to Rillato.” I say “Okay, that’s fine.” But I don’t mean it. And besides all the magic of the big Birthday fuck-fest fantasy is already ruined by all these geographic logistics and shit; Rillato is way further from our house than Udall — and by the time we find the leash and get out to the car and load the dog and realize we’ve forgotten a bottle of water and have to go back and get one so the dog doesn’t get too overheated on my birthday and etc. etc. blah, blah... Let’s just jump to the chase here. There ain’t a lot to celebrate about turning 74 fuckin’ years old. And today, the only time in my entire life where I have to face down this reality, there’s even less — Trust me on this one.

The best thing about getting older is not recalling that you’re getting older

Recently, I’ve glimpsed my mental disintegration and how it’s going to happen and how it’s already happening and I gotta tell you, I’m not all that worried about it.

I spent the vast majority of my life thinking that sex was the only thing that mattered only to reach the conclusion when I got to my 7th decade that it doesn’t matter much anymore.

Either I was wrong all along about that or I’m a different me than I used to be.

I have fond memories of sex but I also have those for good acid trips, numerous visits to NYC, more than a few unforgettable meals, and certain long-gone automobiles (oh, that candy-apple-red, 289-V8, factory ordered, 4 on the floor, 1966 Mustang, wherefore art thou now? Oh where art’ the snowballs of yesteryear?)

The way I see it, I’m losing my mind already.

I remember lots of stuff, more than enough to occupy my waking hours and my sleepy-time dreams, but my struggles to recall certain words, dates, supposedly “memorable moments” from my glorious and ignominious famous and infamous past, become more and more a part of my daily struggles to remember. And very rarely does it matter to myself or anyone else.

My brain is slowly losing wattage and I don’t care.

Listen youngsters, I understand, when you imagine that you’re still at the top of your game, you’re bound to be reluctant to even glance fleetingly in the direction of a possible future where you are lesser, diminished, no longer the fabulous person you imagined you’d one day become and that you presently still think is out here waiting for you.

Well, here’s some good news as your brain carries your mind away into some hazy, confused place, as weird and foreign as a distant land, that same brain will have you sufficiently out-of-it to barely notice what’s happening.

Fear not my darlings the great thing about losing it is that by losing it you have no idea what “it” is any longer, anyway —

I hope you’re reassured by reading this because I can assure you I’m not.

but, you know, whata we gonna do?

Today, NOW, I’m 73 yrs. old. Tomorrow I’ll be...older.

A birthday is only 24 hours long, but it sounds like a LOT more.

Because my b-day is in mid-December, I’m only the age I turn on that day for a few weeks. This is because after all the hoopla associated with of New Year’ Eve, etc. dies down, from about Mid-January on, when I, or anyone else, brings up my age I say, a numerically appropriate/accurate version of “I’ll be 76 next year.” This is technically correct in that in calendar year 2023 I will turn 76 (“if I make it,” a parenthetical I’ve added in recent years to acknowledge the extra helping of time-rage I feel about getting so damned old). I neglect to mention that I won’t be 75 for about 11 more months, because why quibble? Facts are facts. Numbers don’t lie. And neither do the looks of pretty young women and older pretty women who don’t see me as sexually hot and who in fact barely see me at all. Old women are no better, especially the widows, they look at me, if at all, only as a potential recipient of grief-casseroles should Patti my wife and my age kick the bucket before me. So, yeah, I’ll be 74 tomorrow. and I’ll be 75 for a few days in January before I begin describing my age “I’ll be 76 next year,” because I’m the one suffering this regrettably best alternative left to me — and I might as well do it any damned, grumpy, old way I wanna. Happy birthday my ass. Gimme some cake.

Saying Goodbye to the Dying

Especially at this time of year saying goodbye to the dying has a cumulative effect on your soul.

As if the coming of fall, with all its endings and disappearing and changing isn’t difficult enough, this time of year is especially painful when it’s full of anniversaries of the deaths of people we’ve known and loved but can know no longer.

Sitting at a bedside holding the limp hand of a loved one still cherished, takes its toll.

Doing this more than once, doing it over and over, one loss and one goodbye to the next, takes a piece of you away each time.

The watcher waits, witness, sitting silently, perhaps softly chanting prayers but holding heartbreak, despair, and grief at bay until the vigil is passed.

There is a terrible cost to this and you won’t know the price until it’s time to pay.

But know this now, you’ll never be the same once you’ve lived through others' dying, right up until and all through the moment when your time comes to leave.

An Older Poem in Celebration of Autumn’s Arrival This Morning

The older I get the more I appreciate every-fuckin’-thing

No point sitting down only to try and write a poem; I mean for that expressed purpose. You can’t do it.

Well, you can, but what you’ll get is a poem that you’ve tried to write, a poem filled with intentions and ambitions and poetic tricks, etc.

Earlier today, a couple of hours ago, I went for a walk. It’s late November, but this is Tucson, 63 degrees and it feels much warmer in bright sunlight.

The dog wagged his tail as we strolled down the dirt path. And watched a jack-rabbit beat-it out of our way.

Sitting here now, several hours later remembering this walk I hope that someday when I’m lying on my deathbed, I’ll be lucky enough to recall the walk itself rather than this poem about it.

I live in Spokane full time now autumn here is the real thing.

Today’s revisit to this poem is years later.

Patti and I just got back from another walk on this early fall day.

Our dog is gone now, chasing laughing jackrabbits in the sky. And I’m enough older to hope that on my deathbed, which I’m much closer to occupying, I’ll remember both these days and both parts of this poem.

When you get old you get greedy for more of all of it. And hungry to remember it, too.

A Subtle Reminder of Our Doomed Status

We’re all of us heading the same direction

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I have been reading about the lives, well, actually, about the deaths of writers and poets and it helps me put the day’s political nightmares and madness in perspective.

Two $-making HarperCollins author’s before one of us, Walter Dean Myer’s, became dead

Two $-making HarperCollins author’s before one of us, Walter Dean Myer’s, (right) became dead.

The endgame is rarely very pretty. It is never about winners or losers, but always about losing: Bukowski, of course, whose wife Linda said of him at the end, “He was such a brave soldier,” as he died in his hospital bed after a long life of debauchery and honesty. Raymond Carver, gone at 52, full of gratitude and contentment, “Gravy” he called his last decade, “pure gravy,” in its goodness/luck for him, like Buk, a woman who he loved and who adored him by his side. Dalton Trumbo, smoked away his final hours in his bathtub, typing. Victorious in the end, but battle-scarred going, going . . . gone. Huxley asking for one more I.V. hit of LSD. Fitzgerald was hopeful and working on his last book, his heart beyond broken but broken as well. In the last years and months of his life, his royalties for books that later sold millions, had dwindled to almost nothing. He must have believed himself a pure portrait of failure. Hemingway, oh Hem, that shotgun to the roof of your mouth messing up your comb-over. And after the final breaths were drawn, things didn’t get much better: Scott Fitzgerald’s editor and friend, Max Perkins, had to hire 6 strangers from the street to be pall bearers. In a photograph of Hemingway’s funeral from 1961, we see twelve guys in dark suits and four priests in flowing robes. Not much of anyone else. Lawyers and priests, but no mourning starlets or movie stars, fishing buddies or old lovers. Writers, no matter how famous, long or short and short or long their careers, don’t get much outta their Funerals. Maybe it’s like Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t come to your friends’ funerals, they won’t come to yours.” Brautigan, Twain, Roethke, Rilke, Sund, Lao Tsu, any of us, and all of us, reach our expiration dates, either expected or surprised but in any event inevitable, Although, of course, this business of death and dying doesn’t apply only to writers and poets; because it is my craft, I pay special attention to what my brothers and fathers have done before me. And although it’s narcissistic to see it this way, I think anyone who steps up and tries to speak for others, which every poet and writer is doing to some degree at least, can be judged for how we finish-up, how we end. We all must be forgiven, each of us, our endings, whether strong or weak, brave or cowardly; none of us can know for sure what our personal ending will be like, and by the time we figure it out it’ll be too late. Those who have tasted and learned what fame and celebrity mean and tried to discern what matters most, understand that such questions are unanswerable. At the end, any further words about “What matters most…” are simply hopes.

Ask any of my dead fathers and brothers. Their silence will answer you.

But more importantly ask yourself, right now, knowing what awaits all of us, whether you write or not, ALL of us, is it really that important to know what happens next? Will it make any difference to you when your time is up?

Eulogy to All

You may or may not agree with these remarks about living and dying; your agreement or disagreement doesn’t matter much.

So we decide that the death of a plant, once green and lush, is less sad than the death of a butterfly. Perhaps equally less sad than the butterfly’s passing is than the death of a field mouse, which in turn is less sad than the death of a friend’s dog or cat, which is less sad than the death of YOUR dog or cat. All of these deaths are or should be less sad than the death of a human stranger which is less sad than the death of someone you know, much less someone you love. This order of grieving, some deaths more sad and others less is, of course, mostly applicable/useful at helping us maintain some sense and order to our sadness. But what if the plant that has died came from a cutting of your long-dead mother’s favorite plant and as such the newly dead plant was the only living thing (other than yourself) still alive to remind you of her and therefore was of great value to you and much treasured and beloved? It’s all like musical scales, this effort to grasp or to avoid the powerful mysteries of dying by inventing an order or a God, a heaven and/or a hell, and deciding that it “must” all mean something. And you know, deep in your bones and heart, that it does not mean anything. Plants die, field mice die, dogs, cats, strangers, loved ones, and you die and there is no meaning, no mystery to any of it. To reiterate: You’re born. You live awhile. You die. End of the story and end of everything. This is my eulogy and like it or not, yours too.  

Just Weighing Separator

The Impermanence Death & Dying