August 10 2014               IT DOESN’T ADD UP

Another birthday came and went. Good lord, the numbers are daunting. Unlike Jack Benny who was perennially 39, I’ve decided to just eliminate the second digit. As a result I am currently 6 and will not be 7 for another 2 years. This way I can act my age, no problem.

Truth is, I vacillate emotionally between single and double digits. Many years ago, when in my early 30’s, I lived for a while with a French folk singer who was then in her 50’s. Having been severely beaten by a boyfriend, she took me in while I awaited the court date. Two ex-pats, we had many a scathing discussion about life in America and at one point she uttered the great French exclamation, “Buh,” she said, “America is the only country that will go from infancy to senility without ever reaching maturity.”  A quote that could easily apply to me.

Age, aging, death….why are they so unacceptable? Do any of us really want to live forever? Well, sometimes I do. It’s all so endlessly fascinating. I’d like to bear witness to our children and grandchildren’s lives; would love to see the garden 50 years from now; would be amused to see what new flavors of ice cream will be invented in the year 2050. And what about all the things one still hasn’t got around to? Like, Greece, India, Morocco, Stromboli, performance art, musical compositions…what about the parachute jump I never took? The arias I’ve never sung..?

But I’m not 6. And along with all the joy, sorrow too accumulates. Yesterday a friend tells us of a friend whose daughter just found out that her 8 week old baby is brain damaged and as she utters those awful words I imagine the future stretching out, rolling out like an interminable carpet with no end in sight. And which of us who’ve reached a certain age want to stay around for melting ice caps, African plagues and infinite wars?

Who the hell invented counting anyway? What an ironic and futile system of quantifying life. With numbers come comparison, the great divider between young and old, poverty and never enough.

My birthday is 8/8 and like much else in life I long ago discovered that by turning reality on its ear I could pretend it was something else. In this case, flip those 8’s and they become the infinity sign…twice…a bit of magical thinking that I could indulge in whenever I needed to feel born under a lucky star.

Well, why shouldn’t we rail against the dying light? For all its meaninglessness, for all its disappointments, for all its aches and pains, life is, if you let it, the ultimate eye-opening, mind-altering journey. Sign me up for the next leg.

Rock

 

Rock of Ages                                                                                                          Photo by Maggie

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