I wrote this blog entry several months ago as a start on a new book. Since then I find that I may not live to finish another book. I decided to put it in the blog rather than among the my more static writings. I may create other blog posts in the same vein .
After a certain age a man should not sit by a winter fire casually reading William Butler Yeats poems. Some of his poems are relatively safe but some are not. It is possible that after reading Sailing to Byzantium in a melancholic mood or on a dark, wet December night some old men might go out and jump off a bridge.
I don’t know anyone who actually did that but I am sure that many old men have thought about it. For myself I would never consider jumping off of a bridge because I am afraid of heights. That also eliminates the possibility of me jumping out of a high window. I also have objections to firearms and poisons. It may be that I am destined to melt away unnoticed like a post-Christmas snow man.
But here I am an old man. It is a cold and dark December night and I am reading Yeats again. How about this: Consume my heart away; sick with desire and fastened to a dying animal…
Yeats lays it on pretty thick, perhaps because he had a lifelong crush on a beautiful woman who preferred a hero of the Easter Rebellion. her name was Maud Gonn. She liked Yeats’s poetry but that was about it. He never got to first base with her as far as carnal knowledge went.
For over fifty years Yeats wrote countless poems about her and to her. Some of them were very good poems but that did not make any difference to Maud. She had her own criteria for prospective lovers or husbands. Yeats did not fulfill her requirements and that was that.
In my younger days I moped my way through several cases of unrequited love and I know how Yeats must have felt. I have my moments but normally my life is not as sad as a Yeats poem .
I manage to remain cheerful despite the many valid reasons I have to be grumpy. I have always had a good sense of humor about life and living that has pulled me out of countless depressions. I also have the help of a tiny pill I take at bedtime that is supposed to elevate my mood.
I am not sure how much the tiny pill helps but the doctor slipped it in when he diagnosed me with Alzheimer’s some years ago. At the time I was still pretty upbeat because I didn’t believe him, but now maybe I do. Maybe the tiny pill is all that holds me together now. I don’t think so but I am not willing to push my luck and stop taking the pill.
I don’t have any idea why the doctor has me taking the pill just before I go to bed. Who cares about mood elevation when they are sleeping?
After my diagnosis for Alzheimer’s I decided I wanted to write a book of fiction to take my mind off the Alzheimer’s and to prove that I could still write. I wrote the book. It was not not much more than a short story but I liked it. I wanted to write another book but I didn’t really want to write a book like this one, at least not now.
If you want to invest ninety nine cents you can find that other book on Amazon. Search for Kurt Survance. The title is A Season in Hell. If you don’t want to buy it you can read it by going to the home page.
I have been looking for another fiction story I would like to write but so far I have not found the one I want. It’s been weeks of searching and time is especially important to me for obvious reasons. The poet Andrew Marvell has a phrase I apply to my situation:
… at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before me lies
Deserts of vast eternity.
brrrr!…. Deserts of vast eternity… I think I will have to stop weaving poetry into my narrative.
I have started to write down my thoughts and memories frequently just so it would keep me writing while I search for the next book I want to write. It might serve as a backup if I never find the book I want to write.
A Man Who Loved Women
Like Yeats, I am another man who loved women. I was a bachelor for fifty eight years before I married. Between the ages of sixteen and fifty eight I had a lot of girlfriends. Three or four of them were serious. We spent a long time together. They all eventually dumped me for various reasons, most of the breakups were because I did not want to get married . My wife is the only one who didn’t dump me.
The rest of my lovers were short term and the relationship was driven by libido on both our parts. Once the fire went out we went our separate ways. No recriminations, no pain, but still occasional memories come unbidden into my dreams. Since my marriage I have only one lover, my wife. in my dreams I have several more.
But my interest in women is not all about sex. I prefer conversation with women much more than with men. As Tolstoy put it: Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the company of intelligent women. I no longer qualify as a young man, but I think it is true for old men as well.
Out With The Old
Today is Christmas Eve. It is still light outside but we are housebound by freezing rain and black ice. We are happy with that. We have a fireplace and plenty of wood.
My wife has bought new bookcases for Christmas. This required a review of all of my books to see what I want to keep.
I think a purge like this will not be done again. Cleaning up a lifetime of books, sifting through my life, discarding my thoughts from earlier times…. It is a difficult operation. My studies, my follies, the histories of my thoughts will be thrown into cardboard boxes. Books I have written, others written by friends, some books I don’t remember, some I haven’t read and some I have read many times, these few will be saved.
It seems to me that this is something that should be done after a funeral but the new shelves will not wait and I am in no hurry.
The End of Civilization as we Know It.
I wish I had been a little younger when the world came apart. Maybe then I would have played a part in it. As it is, I am limited to looking over shoulders on a daily basis to see what is happening out in the circus we call the world. Getting the news is not that easy because I haven’t had a television for several decades.
It is amazing how your life changes when you throw your television out the window. For one thing, when you go into public places where they have many televisions you can entertain yourself by watching the watchers. Airports are my favorite places. You can see dozens of people sitting with their heads inclined at the same angle transfixed by the overhead TV’s around them . They look like zombies straight from the film The Body Snatchers.
Regrets, I have a Few
My regrets are rooted in my two primary faults of character: Indolence and Cowardice. I feel that I didn’t make full use of my potential. But nothing can change the past.
At the age of forty I took my first real job. I liked my boss but never got used to not being the boss. I spent a few years at it but then went back to my one man consultancy. It was really a cop-out but it paid the bills and allowed me to dabble in all sorts of other things.
If there is any magic in this world I think it must be in the music. Without music life might be unbearable. Music takes my heart in it’s hands and stirs my deepest emotions. It makes this journey through life worth the effort. One of the few things I like about our brave new world is Youtube.
Except for a short period in my childhood when my mother thought we should all go to church, we children were not plagued by religion. However during this period she made me and my siblings trudge to a nearby church on Sundays to listen to a fiery Pentecostal preacher who scared the bejesus out of us with hellfire and brimstone.
I, along with my siblings were even sent to a church camp one summer up on Lake Erie. The camp was all about sending money to missionaries, singing hymns and eating s’mores by the fire.
Returning missionaries told us about their good works. One had spent considerable time translating English hymns to Vietnamese. We sang a lot of his translations. After sixty years I can still sing Leaning on the Everlasting Arms in Vietnamese.
We moved away from that town and I have not been in any church since then except for two occasions.
In the first case, I was following a short lived ambition to race motorcycles on dirt tracks. I was driving to the races with another motorcycle idiot like me. He was also a religious idiot and needed to stop at a Catholic church to confess his sins and pray that he would not be mangled in a multibike pile up when he raced. I went inside the church with him but I neither confessed nor prayed. However both of us crashed during the race. Neither of us were hurt very much. He said ‘ next time you should stay in the in the truck while I go in and pray’.
The second and last time I was in a church was at my sister’s wedding. She was marrying a guy I absolutely despised. I was not in a good mood and was looking for a way to disappear unobserved. When the time came for him to put the ring on her finger, he dropped it. It was rolling in a wide circle. He, the preacher and my sister were on their hands and knees scrambling to stop it before it went down the heat register that it was heading for. During the panic I slipped out and went to the reception before anyone else was there. I drank champagne until the others arrived. My sister was wearing the ring and I was pleasantly drunk.
However I do think about religion sometimes. I don’t know about God himself ( I don’t think anybody does, no matter what they say) but I don’t like religions.They have nothing to do with a god. They are the business end of spirituality. I dislike the whole idea of religions, disciples, priests, angels, heaven, hell, and especially, Faith . I am appalled that so many people would spend immense amounts of time and money to be assured, without a scrap of evidence that there is a heavenly life after death. But when their time comes I don’t think they will be disappointed. I think they will just be dead, saints and sinners alike.
If you haven’t already thrown this book in the garbage and opened your bible we can continue on another subject.
Alzheimer’s and Other Inconveniences
It should come as no surprise that I don’t like Alzheimer’s , but the worst is that it will be harder on my wife than on me. They are talking about a cure or a drug that might slow down the progress of the disease. However I think if it works at all it will be still be too late for me.
None of my current writing could have been done without word processors and especially spell checkers. As a kid I had won many spelling bees. As an old man I can barely spell my own name.
In a similar but more painful situation Lou Gehrig, the Yankee baseball legend was diagnosed with what today we commonly call Lou Gehrig disease (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) (ALS). This disease causes the voluntary muscles to simply stop working, one by one.
However there is a miracle attached to ALS. All of us terminals appreciate miracles, but unfortunately there is no corresponding miracle for Alzheimer’s .
The ALS miracle is Stephan Hawking. Most people who contract ALS die within five years after the diagnosis. Mr Hawkins was diagnosed at the age of twenty one. He passed away at the age of seventy two after a life time of being the most intelligent man alive.
He was the most courageous man I knew of. He drove around in a wheel chair like device that allowed him to tap out messages and even long books,with his single remaining voluntary muscle, the one that controlled his little finger,
I went to a lecture of his a few years ago . It was an exercise in patience and humility. Afterwards he took questions and replied to them. Sometimes it took five minutes for him to reply to the question. During the pause the entire audience was silent until the reply came. Near the end of the lecture a woman shouted ‘I love you Stephan ‘ He replied ‘Thank You’. It was very quick response because he had pre-recorded that phrase and used it a lot.
Lou Gehrig ended his farewell speech in Yankee Stadium with these words ‘ You have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.‘ His entire speech is posted on the wall of the room in the hospital where they counsel people like me with a terminal condition. I went there once then decided I would counsel myself.
For the record, I do not consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth and I don’t think that people will ever call Alzheimer’s the Kurt Survance Disease because I have never slammed a home run out of Yankee Stadium.