In Brief—Musings about what the author remembers, what he sees and experiences and what is found in the scrapbook.
“Destinations” and an Unknown Future—
My daily exercise walks down the corridor stirred me to think about what I have written and experienced since arriving at the Old Folks’ Home. It stirred me to remember life when I was young. I recall seeing a drawing in the New Yorker of people hurrying past a graveyard. The caption read only “Destinations.” It impacted me decades ago. It impacts me today.
In the first part of my Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home, I told of seeing the women residents sunning themselves. I wondered how they may have appeared in their youth because I am unable to picture them with smooth skin and filled with energy. I am unable to see the young women they once were for the wrinkles, gray hair and walkers. I’ve tried, but it’s just not there.
This reminded me of the scrapbook. And I have to admit the scrapbook holds more photos in their yellow envelopes than are pasted into the book. My laziness knows no bounds.
What can be found in the scrapbook and in those envelopes? Photos of children, photos of families, vacations, weddings, spouses, some people I don’t even remember no matter how hard I wrack my brain. And me in exuberant youth on the beach or in my patched jeans at the pottery studio or in my hippie stage…even in the office in a suit and tie.
Those old women must have been vibrant youths once not thinking of the future when Father Time would rob them of their vitality and give them sags and wrinkles in place of unblemished skin. Now they are waiting, just waiting.
The media and advertising world show us a profusion of scantily clad nubile young women (mostly), half clad young men with rippling muscles but vanishingly few older people. We are assaulted by posturing politicians or poor minorities who lie bleeding in the street never to experience wrinkles. But flawless beauties abound. Even talented older women associated with stage and screen complain of being ignored in favor young lovelies. I want to shout that whether young or middle-aged, they, too, will one day display wrinkles, sags and gray hair nothwithstanding plastic surgery, drugs, income and proper diet. They, too, may wind up behind a walker, waiting.
A talented photographer friend sent me samples of his extraordinary work, among them several photographs of nude young women in the prime of youth. Taut, flawless skin, supple bodies. The testosterone of that time responded to the nude photos as you might expect. But accompanying the photos was the rationale expressed by one of the young women: “One day in the future, I want to remind myself that I once looked like this.” Today, I see in her acknowledgement the inevitability of change. These young women of so many years ago could just as well be like the old women down the corridor here in the Old Folks’ Home.
The awareness of the passing of the years stirs my thoughts and memory as I walk the corridors of today. My fellow residents share my condition. My mirror and the putting-on of socks remind me that the one unchanging thing in the universe is change.
Wring all you can out of the all-too-brief moments you have. Father Time walks beside you and only he will decide when the waiting is over.