And here am I in my second spring at 72. It is strange to see the wrinkles and sags in the mirror and not feel them in my brain. Is the gray matter crisping or crumbling? Those little memory lapses we get at this age, the nauseatingly labeled “senior moments”–is the locus of memory like Swiss cheese, firm and resilient in some places, an empty space in others incapable of coughing up that word I’m searching for, as ordinary as a green bean?
A short while ago, my husband came into the room and asked, “In a song, what do you call the parts between the chorus?” “Verses?” I said. He nodded, and we exchanged a look of grim amusement. It is baffling and ridiculous. And scary, always that fear lurking, is this it? dementia? the first signs? Every age has its terrors.
In my first spring, it was nuclear holocaust: the U-2 incident, Bay of Pigs, Berlin Crisis, Cuban Missile Crisis. All the young men incessantly discussed their options–stay in school, sign on for graduate work, get married, have a baby. Nobody back then talked about burning their draft cards or fleeing to Canada. Most eventually served in the armed forces, one way or another, one as a seaman, another as an officer, a third, much later, as a Navy doctor after the Navy helped pay for medical school. My brother was excused for deafness, another friend for asthma. Rumor ran rife. –Tell them you’re a homosexual or a Red, they won’t take you.–Yes, but then it’s on your record, you’ll never get a job. Rather than wait in limbo for the ax to fall, most signed on to get it over with.
And we young women, were we happy to be excused? A bit envious of the serious grown-up choices before them? Most of us had little encouragement to do anything but get married. College was a way to find a husband, not an intellectual passion or a career.
So long ago, now. So much came after. We pick and choose our memories, sifting through the basket for the glowing ripe peach, the perfect pear, the crisp and shiny apple. But sometimes the real stories are in the bruises.
Welcome to my autumn blog.