Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Body Tired, Spirit Indefatigable

The Russ Hotel. One of the ladies on the balcony is David's Great, Great Auntie Hartwell. I wonder if she would be pleased to know how I cherish her monogrammed bed linens and silver forks. When it is cold at night, I sleep under the quilts that these three ladies made 100 years ago and it makes me feel like part of their family. I wonder how they would feel about that.

Yesterday was a bad day. I knew it was going to be when I noticed the fingers in my left hand were starting to numb. Soon, I was numb from the tip of my middle finger to my shoulder blade. From my shoulder blade through the back of my head shot a searing pain, almost like my head was about to detach from my body and soar through the sky like a refugee off to a safer place in a hot-air balloon. At some point during my breaking wild horses phase, I did some damage to my body. When I'm under stress, it reminds me what an inhospitable host for my soul it can be. (I remember how resilient I was at 15. My body hit the ground at 30 miles-an-hour three times a week only to rebound with amazing alacrity.) Later in the day, I heard one of the songs I used to play during my college radio show. The D.J. spoke about what this particular song means as a relic. Ouch. I felt old.

I hobbled into the supermarket and stood in line with my grilled cheese fixings and tomato soup. The man in front of me had a white layer cake that was frosted in coconut. I was waiting for my turn, when a voice from behind said That looks good enough to eat. I turned around and saw an old man with bright white hair and the eyes of a young man. Suddenly, I saw him as he must have been at 18. Probably off to fight. Smooth-faced, frightened, jovial still. He looked like a man who has cracked jokes all of his life. I imagined his first car, his first love, and I hoped there was a cheerful woman at home who still snapped her dishtowel at him as she ordered him out of her kitchen. But, he wondered aloud, how does it compare to a Snickers bar? I took the bait. "Well, does anything really compare to a Snickers bar?" I asked. No, he replied, Not really. I can only think of two things that are as good as a Snickers bar. "Well," I asked, "What are they?"
Madam, he said, I am a gentleman and I will not answer that question.

I hate our youth-obsessed culture. I hate how we fight to keep "fine lines and wrinkles" at bay. I want a clean face, but I'm not sure I want to prevent the formation of laugh lines, worry lines, baby lines, life lines. I think I'd like to keep some of them to remember my journey. I love to hear the stories accumulated over a long lifetime by the very old. When I first met her, David's grandmother told me stories about the hotel her family owned in Clifton, Tennessee beside the Tennessee River. I loved her stories. I miss her desperately. Once, she and I were talking and she mentioned how she thought David had become a "very odd individual." She said she didn't know what had happened to him. "Well," I asked, "Do you think he got weird once he met me?" She smiled and said "I don't know, but I do know that he wasn't weird before." I don't know if she was kidding or not, but it took a long time for me to stop laughing.

This old man trying to scare up a laugh in the supermarket made my day bearable. He made my heart feel young. Youth, be quiet. Beauty, be still. There is much to learn and too few years in which to learn it.


Carla said...

I am beginning to see the hints of crow's feet around my eyes. And I am proud of them. I think that means I smile a lot.


G. Twilley said...

When I look in the mirror, I see white hair pushing through - I usually think that it comes by the implications and stress of my the newness and struggles in the pain of the death of those that I've loved.

I look at the sign of age and [strangely] it makes me happy, even though I know it is there because of sad days.

susan said...

Carla, you have a beautiful smile.I'm glad you smile a lot.

Gene, I voted about how you should cut your hair. I think your gray hair means you are wise beyond your years.