“. . . to prove we were still among the living. . .” (Simon Armitage)

Morrissey. You can't go on forever

Morrissey. You can’t go on forever

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I managed to delete ten of my postings here. I thought they were “drafts”  —in the “drafts” folder. But, alas, they were the final “draft,” kept for some reason I can’t figure. I was able to reconstruct the last post , but the others will take some doing. Now I know why I save the Word documents on my desktop.

“Are we dead yet?” someone would ask.
Then with a plastic toothpick
I’d draw blood from my little finger
to prove we were still among the living.

A week ago I had blood drawn from my little finger (I assume there was blood although I was in la-la-land—they said I wasn’t asleep from a general anesthesia but didn’t know what was going on because they gave me that other stuff that doesn’t really knock you out). Not my finger, but the palm of my right hand where the finger tendons attach to the hand bones. If I’ve already written about it, that’s a post I deleted. The pinky “trigger finger” surgery was almost negligible.

I wore the dressing for three days, Band-Aids for several days, and today nothing to protect the healing incision.

But—there’s always a “but,” isn’t there—the surgeon said I should not get into a swimming pool until after my follow-up appointment (tomorrow). And I mustn’t go to yoga class (no hands on floor).

I know why old people get stiff and begin to hobble. One thing leads to another to another to another. I can’t do my accustomed exercise—walking in the therapy pool at the Landry Fitness Center. So, rather than take a walk around the neighborhood, I do nothing. And my lower back has a knot from sitting and writing at my computer too many hours, and I’m beginning to hobble. Damn!

It’s been too hot to walk outside. And my tutoring schedule is inconvenient. And I’m depressed. And. . . How many excuses can I think up?

The real reason is I don’t want to do it alone.

At the Landry Center, I have made friends. We barely know each other’s names, but we talk and make jokes and know all of the ailments that bring us there, and gossip like a bunch of little old ladies, which we mostly are.

We get acquainted. One of the women and I discovered she’s the next-door neighbor of and best friends with an organist for whom I substitute regularly. Are we going to socialize outside the pool? I’d bet Linda and I and her neighbors will eventually. The organist and his partner must know some other old fart looking for an old fart to be with (that is interpreted, date).

So I’m not going to run into Linda for a few more days, and I certainly wouldn’t run into anyone I know walking out on Maple or Hudnall streets.

My parents walked every day until they moved to assisted living (they were both about 90). Together. If genetics has anything to do with it, I could be walking another 20 years. Of course, neither of my parents ever drank, smoked, or was 35 pounds overweight, so I’m not sure my prognostication should be for 20 years (I haven’t drunk or smoked for 28 years).

Me--before three surgeries, lethargy, weight gain, and hobbling

Me–before three surgeries, lethargy, weight gain, and hobbling

However, the outlook for hooking up with someone (I mean that in all popular senses of the phrase) grows, I think, dimmer by the day.

Armitage writes, “Are we dead yet?” someone would ask. He was born the year I graduated from high school. Does he even have standing to ask that question?

If you want to know the worst case scenario about how old gay men (and women) live out their years, you can watch the movie Gen Silent. Another instance–a gay couple in Arizona who had been together 45 years went to California to marry. Recently, one of them died, and Arizona refused to put on his death certificate that the other was his spouse. It took a Federal judge to force Arizona to accept their marriage.

In case you think I’m whining, I’m not. I’m simply trying to be realistic. Even if I were not gay, my late-life prospects are not rosy. I’ve chosen to be a low-ranking college professor for most of my sober life, so my Social Security is only about $1300 a month. (The SSA has decided that, if you were poor in your working life, you will be poor in “retirement.” I wonder if the mega-wealthy 1% return their SS checks. One of them could help me out quite a bit.) My “pension” from SMU is about half that. Can you live on $2000 per month?—especially if you are in any way infirm?

I’m not whining.

I’ll be a helluva lot better off than most people, I’d guess. Armitage’s poem is a projection of what one does in old age WITH ONE’S FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES.

As almost an aside, I have to quote The Guardian from Friday 3 September 2010:

For 30 years, poet Simon Armitage’s admiration for Morrissey has bordered on the obsessive. But could his love survive an encounter with the famously sharp-tongued singer-songwriter?

That’s part of the introduction to an interview between Armitage and Morissey in which Morissey says,

Simon Armitage: we're not dead yet

Simon Armitage: we’re not dead yet

The ageing process isn’t terribly pretty… and you don’t want yourself splattered all over the place if you look pitiful. You can’t go on forever, and those that do really shouldn’t.

(I don’t think Armitage is gay, and I don’t know any of Morrissey’s music. When he was in his heyday, I was a drunk, and since then I’ve not kept up with popular music except for Lady Gaga and a few others.)

I’m not sure where I meant to go with this writing. I’ve been interrupted too many times. But I think this is where I was headed when I began.

All of my favorite sayings about getting old are true. “Getting old is a full-time job.”

Job. And I’d really like to have someone to come home to after work.

“Dämmerung,” Simon Armitage, (b. 1963)

In later life I retired from poetry,
ploughed the profits
into a family restaurant
in the town of Holzminden, in lower Saxony.

It was small and traditional:
dark wood panelling, deer antlers,
linen tablecloths and red candles,
one beer tap on the bar

and a dish of the day, usually
Bauernschnitzel. Weekends were busy,
pensioners wanting the set meal, though
year on year takings were falling.

Some nights the old gang came in –
Jackie, Max, Lavinia,
Mike not looking at all himself,
and I’d close the kitchen,

hang up my striped apron,
take a bottle of peach schnapps
from the top shelf and say,
“Mind if I join you?”

“Are we dead yet?” someone would ask.
Then with a plastic toothpick
I’d draw blood from my little finger
to prove we were still among the living.

From the veranda we’d breathe new scents
from the perfume distillery over the river,
or watch the skyline
for the nuclear twilight.

Don’t read this if you’re skinny and immortal

‘You fool! This very night..." (Luke 12:20)

‘You fool! This very night…” (Luke 12:20)

Yesterday a friend announced on Facebook he has slowly “somehow” lost 14 pounds over the last year. That’s not huge news except it’s almost impossible at our age to dispose of weight and trivial to find it again. Two years ago I dropped about 50 pounds. In the last year I’ve picked up 15 of them again.

I can blame old age—or something over which I have no control—for part of the repounding. If you read my palaver often, you might remember I fell a couple of months ago and hurt my right hip. Bruised the ligaments is the two-out-of-three diagnosis of my doctor, my PT, and my trainer.

The fall was not the result of old age. It was sheer carelessness. I was trying to put up the shower curtain rod which I had somehow pulled down reaching too far to clean my bathtub. I added the injury to the insult by standing on the toilet to reach the other end of the tub to tighten the rod. It was not a “help-I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up” moment. It was a “help-sometimes-I-do-the-dumbest-things” moment.

I’ve been in nearly constant pain since February 1.

The pain has kept me from walking. It has kept me from yoga class. It is kept me from getting started with my trainer after one session to analyze my condition. It has kept me from sleeping many nights. It has kept me excessively grumpy (how could you tell?). So I’ve been sitting around nursing the pain and being physically inactive. Add to that my spending half of my time with my inamorato for the last year and two months—and we do not eat particularly healthfully because we’re enjoying ourselves. The recipe for finding those fifteen pounds.

The pain is almost gone. The physical therapist is the miracle worker. Today I’ll join the fitness center at SMU and begin “water walking” in the pool. (My only fear is I might run into students while I’m in my swimming suit—or, horrors!—the showers! Perhaps the T. Boone Pickens YMCA is a better idea even if it is five times as expensive.

So I was thinking about why I want to take those 15 pounds off. The first and most obvious answer is to be even more loveable for my inamorato.  And then so I don’t feel quite so much like a fat old man when I’m around my students. And those new clothes I bought after I had taken off the 50 pounds. You know. If you’ve ever struggled with weight, you know.

Scene of the crime

Scene of the crime

This morning I’m adjusting the belt around my butt—yes, it may be true that the way the PT works miracles is to have me wear this belt 24/7. It keeps my ass from moving in ways that reinjure the ligaments (wear it inside my jeans, of course). On March 29, I used this pain in my ass to talk about the horrific racism rampant in this country—especially targeted at President Obama.

Today I have a different question. Why do I (why does my friend) (why does anyone) think it’s a good idea to lose weight? So we can live longer?

Seriously. I want you to consider before you continue reading how strong you are. How able to think about things you don’t want to think about. How you will react to my writing (once again) about death. If you don’t want to think about it, STOP READING. If you’ll think I’m suicidal or depressed, you may continue reading—but keep your opinions about my mental, emotional, or physical health to yourself.

I’m 68 years old. My trainer says my body is that of a 75-year-old (because of my BMI). I don’t like having let my body get into this condition.

Let’s say I get over to the fitness center and get to work and lose fifteen or twenty or thirty pounds. Great. Let’s say I live to be close to my parents’ ages when they died (92 and 97). So when I die, will I be equally dead whether that’s next week or in 30 years? Will I remember the 30 extra years I’ve given myself? What difference does it make if my apartment is unkempt and has no “style?” When I am dead, am I going to remember a chic décor of clean lines and beautiful things and the impeccable style of a gay boy any more than I remember my early-graduate-student thrift shop mélange?

Is that fool Rex W. Tillerson going to remember his billions any longer than I remember my $1334 per month Social Security?

“For you could not know that which is not nor utter it; for the same thing can be thought as can be. . . . That which can be spoken and thought must be; for it is possible for it, but not for nothing, to be; that is what I bid you ponder” (Parmenides of Elea. The Pre-Socratic Philosophers. G.S. Kirk & J.E. Raven, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964. 269-270).

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ (Luke 12:20).

Early modern graduate student mélange

Do not fall in love with a poet (not me, silly)

When I started writing this blog a few weeks ago, I intended for it to be an outlet for my light-hearted observations about being 68 and (I might hope) getting older.

That plan has two inherent problems. First is that I am not by nature a particularly light-hearted person. Second is that growing older is not necessarily a process that brings out anyone’s light-heartedness.

Not too long ago I stumbled upon the poem “Poetry Anonymous,” by Prageeta Sharma. I was searching for poetry about Alcoholics Anonymous. Sharma, by the way, is a young American poet of Indian descent who teaches at the University of Montana at Missoula. Montana?!

At any rate, I love the opening gambit of her poem.

Do not fall in love with a poet
they are no more honest than a stockbroker.

Having for most of my life wanted to be a poet and realizing that I am not dishonest enough to be such—I have so little imagination that I can’t make up any of the metaphors and similes and such that make poetry. But I think it would be dangerous to fall in love with me simply for my desire to be a poet.

That’s beside my point here. One line of her poem caught my attention. I’m quoting it completely out of context, but

How does narcissism assist you (?)

became the inspiration for this post. I had been wanting to do this since I began but was afraid that this would be absolutely too narcissistic to be of interest to anyone but me. So be it.

Here’s the deal about this posting. As I reflect on growing older—I have said many times that I expected some day to be 68 years old, I just didn’t expect it to happen this soon—part of the reflection is to wonder if I am the same person now as I was, say, 50 years ago. It’s a really interesting question. So one of the ways I’ve been thinking about it is simply to look at myself.

My look at my-selfs-past is somewhat guided by another poem, this by Emily Dickinson.

THE BODY grows outside,—
The more convenient way,—
That if the spirit like to hide,
Its temple stands alway                 

Ajar, secure, inviting;
It never did betray
The soul that asked its shelter
In timid honesty
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So here are a bunch of my favorite pictures of me over the years. The ULTIMATE NARCISSISM.

About a year old—Worland, Wyoming.
`1`me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five years old (1950) with my older brother announcing the birth of our sister—Kearney, Nebraska. Our parents sent this picture out to all of their friends. The ’47 Ford was our family car until the Plymouth ’52 coupe.
`2`me and Richard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 15, the three of us decked out for Easter—Scottsbluff, Nebraska. In 1958 we moved into a brand new house (parsonage). I don’t remember ever looking as dapper as this picture might lead one to believe I was.
`3easter2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 40, the wannabe concert organist—Salem, Massachusetts. This picture was in the Salem Evening News as I was preparing to give a concert for the 300th anniversary of the birth of J.S. Bach. Someday I will write about the importance of that concert in my life.
`4Ghost of Christmas PastR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 65th birthday (I threw myself a party)—Dallas, Texas. At this time I was living alone because my partner had died six years before. I was on the verge of becoming a hermit and dealing with chronic depression.
`5entertaining Harold3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 65, practicing yoga—Dallas, Texas. I was still living alone, but I had finally determined not to let my isolation get the best of me and had begun to do many things to bring myself ’round.
`6bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 65, substituting as organist in a Dallas, Texas, church. When the church where I was organist closed, I began substituting as organist at various churches, which I very much enjoy because I get to play the organ with no continuing requirement of planning and rehearsing.
`7organ_nR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sixty-eight, writing this blog this morning, Dallas, Texas. I’m sitting the window-surrounded breakfast nook of my inamorato’s apartment in downtown Dallas early (6 AM) and doing my writing before he is awake. I am in many ways happier than I thought possible at this age.
`8me today-5aR

So there you have it. My most narcissistic blog ever. But I want to know, am I the same person who rode around on a tricycle in Worland, Wyoming? I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Perhaps once again, Emily Dickinson knows (I seem to have Dickinson on the brain lately).

THE PAST is such a curious creature,
To look her in the face
A transport may reward us,
Or a disgrace.
Unarmed if any meet her,
I charge him, fly!
Her rusty ammunition
Might yet reply!

What’s this “CTRL+/CTRL— ” command?

A dissertation's home

A dissertation’s home

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Yesterday I was reading one of my favorite blogs (click this link only if your shock level is at least moderately high). As you can clearly see—which I could not, even with my glasses—the post is for those of you with much younger eyes than mine. The blogger suggested that I enlarge my screen, and I asked how on earth I could do that.

He said, “Press ‘control +’” (English teachers: should I put a period on this sentence, or is + punctuation? I’m sure I don’t know.)

Control+. (Looks funny with a period.) You know—the screen enlarged!!!

I bought my first computer in 1987 to write my PhD dissertation (The Life and Musical Influence of Henry Kemble Oliver, 1800-1885—aren’t you glad you asked?). Somewhere in this apartment is the box of 5¼-inch minifloppy disks on which my dissertation resides.  Somewhere in two moves in Massachusetts, the move to Dallas, and two moves in Dallas my one print copy disappeared. I gave my sister one—because it’s dedicated to her—and I hope she still has it somewhere (send it to me, Bonnie?).

Or I have to find those 5¼-inch minifloppy disk fossils and locate someone who has a reader for them. But that’s another story.

Please, Genesis, use my CTRL- command

Please, Genesis, use my CTRL- command

I want a CTRL+/CTRL— command for my life.

For starters, piled in my entrance-way is a bunch of stuff I’ve been meaning to (even trying to) get the Salvation Army, or the Genesis Benefit Thrift Store to take away for months. (If any of you Dallas readers knows how to light a fire under Genesis, please do so. There’s some stuff here they could make some money on. Remember the French provincial coffee table? The Futon has never been used—it’s in its original factory wrapping—but that, too, is another story. I seem to have lots of “other stories” today.)

I want a CTRL— command to make that pile smaller. No, to make it disappear altogether.

Much more stuff in my life could use a CTRL— command. My waistline for starters. My library. My depression. Car insurance payments. Junk mail. My seizures. Drone warfare. Student conferences next week. Obstructionist Tea Party congress members. Poop in the cat litter boxes. Barbara Cargill’s power to wreak havoc. You know, the normal detritus of life, in no particular order.

Some things I’d definitely like a CTRL+ command for. Time with my inamorato. My retirement account. Core muscle strength for Virabhadrasana III. Time with my inamorato. My salary. My memory. Colleagues for Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis. Gun control. Time with my inamorato. Chocolate. Opera.  A trip to Easter Island. You know, the normal joys of life, in no particular order.

CTRL+ for a 68-year-old brain

CTRL+ for a 68-year-old brain

All of this began, you see, with my learning something new at age 68—something as basic as the CTRL+/CTRL— command. How have I managed to use computers for 26 years and never known that command? How have I used my mind for 68 years and still do not know if I believe in God?

Where have all the bloggers gone?

Joanie. Unhappy.

Joanie. Unhappy.

Joanie is nine years old. Definitely pushing beyond catdom middle age. She was born feral and saved as a tiny kitten by an employee of City Vet in Dallas (her name, of course, was Joanie). Kitten Joanie was a mess, and by the time they spent money and time fixing her up (including setting a broken leg), they wanted a good home for her.

Enter the old fart (well, I was only 59 at the time) cat lover. I, of course, took her. She has lived uncomfortably in my apartment for nine years. She was mightily offended after a year here when the Cat Brothers, Groucho and, of course, Chachi moved in. Joanie does not love Chachi, but she has tolerated him for eight years. She tolerates his brother Groucho even less.

Now Joanie, for reasons I cannot imagine, has decided they both must go. Or she must hide. Her favorite place is under the bed. If I’m lucky, I can get her to come out long enough to have her picture taken. She has become a growler and hisser.

Joanie is about 60 in human terms, and she’s had it with these younger folks. I’m 68, and I still teach 60 nineteen-year-old university students every semester.  I haven’t had it with the younger folks. But I am getting tired. They are so strange (and they tolerate me about the way Joanie tolerates Groucho; I’m their means to an end—college degrees which will make them rich).

I have a problem in my right hip. How much pain did those old folks have to be in before they got new hips? Poor old things. I suppose there’s something creepy about a fat old man posting a picture of himself in tight yoga clothes on the internet for all the world (the thirty of you, at any rate) to see. But I want to demonstrate what I continue to do with my aching hip. Not bad, huh?

The old bridge.

The old bridge.

This writing was going to have a point, but I think I’ve forgotten what it was. It had something to do with Joanie looking totally disgusted with everything (doesn’t she, though?), and my being able to manage Setu Bandha Savangasana even with a pained hip (it’s probably what’s keeping me from a steel one). From grouchy Joanie (wouldn’t you know—now that I’m saying awful things about her, she has come out from under the bed and is lying in her favorite position on my right foot and purring) to my painful hip I was going somehow logically to get to blogs. I Google blogs and follow tags about old age, trying to connect with other old fart bloggers and increase my “traffic.”

Joanie. Happy?

Joanie. Happy?

A really weird thing happens to blogs about about getting older. They stop. The last month in their archives tends to be January 2010, or March 2011, or February 2007, or. . . you get the picture. All I ask is that, when I remember too little or my logic is even more bizarre than it already is—Chachi just came in and Joanie growled and left, by the way—someone please get WordPress to remove this blog. Sheeeeesh! I want to be immortal, but not by what I leave behind in cyber space!

When I remember the connection between Joanie’s growling, the pain in my left hip, and blogs without bloggers, I’ll let you know.