Monday, June 27, 2016 11:20 AM
Diminishing returns—that’s what I’m dealing with here. My hands shake, my vision is blurry, my head is all kinds of discombobulated. I’m weak. I’m short of breath. I get kinda squirrely whenever I have to talk to people in person—I just get into a loop, second-guessing myself and them—basically, I’ve just lost the ability to deal. I used to be a shut-in because I didn’t have the strength to walk around—now, I think I hide indoors because I know that regularly interacting with people will expose my insanity and get me committed.
Smoking is a problem—I shouldn’t smoke, of course. But I don’t have that much else to amuse myself with—being damn-near dead—so it’s hard for me to rationalize quitting to save my life. What life, without a smoke to pass the time?
Loved ones—sure, I have those. But they have actual lives—they’re busy, they’re engrossed in their own stuff—and any leaning on them takes away from that. I think one person stuck in a frustrating place is sufficient—I can’t see dragging them into this. The paradox of age and infirmity—I’m supposed to be all that more grateful for my continued existence, even as it loses more and more of the features that constitute an actual life. When people congratulate someone on reaching their ninetieth birthday, all I can think is ‘That poor bastard—what must his day be like?’
Not that I’m promoting euthanasia—I’m not paging Dr. Kevorkian. It’s just that younger, healthier people think of old age as ‘extra additional years’, as if their seniority will be as full and engaging as their thirties or forties. But it’s really a matter of diminishing returns—to a certain extent, we fade before we die. And fading isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, I’m still breathing and I’m still watching TV and eating my breakfast every morning—but I’m used to more than that, or I was—I want more than that.
Pain? Yes, certainly. I mean, it’s not like someone amputated one of my limbs or anything—but there’s definitely pain. The headaches are the worst because it makes it hard to think of something else—which is my go-to remedy for other pains. But let’s face it, with the back spasms, the stiff neck, the random nerve pains and restless leg—thinking about something else only gets me so far for so long. The gas pains from my messed-up guts are usually the sharpest—sometimes the cry coming out of my mouth is the first notice I have, it’s so sudden. I usually try to morph it into a sentence, as in “AAH-ow ya doin’ this afternoon?”—just so I don’t scare people into worrying about me.
My close acquaintance with my old friend, pain, makes me a big fan of OTC pain relief—my favorites are aspirin and ibuprofen. But those things only work for a short time—and the next day, I have nerve-endings that are even tenderer from the after-effects. I reach the point where it’s impossible to up the dosage any higher, and the pain is that much worse—it’s a dead-end solution with a high price-tag. Stronger drugs are out of the question—the same cycle, with far greater costs and risks.
My life is so sedentary I spend most of my time watching TV—and it embarrasses me. TV is such a festival of stupid. So I turn it off and start reading. A few hours later, the pain behind my eyes reminds me why I don’t read like I used to—it’s amazing how much physical effort it takes to read. I used to think it was the most relaxing thing in the world—how healthy I must have been!
Here are three poems I stole off a few poetry sites:
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
If all the trees in all the woods were men;
And each and every blade of grass a pen;
If every leaf on every shrub and tree
Turned to a sheet of foolscap; every sea
Were changed to ink, and all earth’s living tribes
Had nothing else to do but act as scribes,
And for ten thousand ages, day and night,
The human race should write, and write, and write,
Till all the pens and paper were used up,
And the huge inkstand was an empty cup,
Still would the scribblers clustered round its brink
Call for more pens, more paper, and more ink.
Walter de la Mare
Dearest, it was a night
That in its darkness rocked Orion’s stars;
A sighing wind ran faintly white
Along the willows, and the cedar boughs
Laid their wide hands in stealthy peace across
The starry silence of their antique moss:
No sound save rushing air
Cold, yet all sweet with Spring,
And in thy mother’s arms, couched weeping there,
Thou, lovely thing.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844 – 1889
I awoke in the Midsummer not to call night, in the white and the walk of the morning:
The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a finger-nail held to the candle,
Or paring of paradisaïcal fruit, lovely in waning but lustreless,
Stepped from the stool, drew back from the barrow, of dark Maenefa the mountain;
A cusp still clasped him, a fluke yet fanged him, entangled him, not quit utterly.
This was the prized, the desirable sight, unsought, presented so easily,
Parted me leaf and leaf, divided me, eyelid and eyelid of slumber.
Why poems? I don’t know—it just came up. Poems are nice—when they’re short enough. I used to read epic poetry—whole books of the stuff—I don’t have that kind of concentration anymore. I own many different English translations of the Iliad and the Oddysey—I prefer the ones that don’t go too ‘prose’ and don’t go too ‘lyric poetry’—it’s difficult to retain just enough of the poetry of it that you don’t lose the pace of the storytelling—a subtle balancing act, which is why there are so many versions. I wonder what it must be like in the original Ancient Greek?
I always wish I’d learned more languages. Languages are the most liberal-arts thing there is—it’s hard to see how they can be of practical use, yet those who learn them have a great mental advantage over the monolinguist. I studied French in high school and college—I never became fluent because I never used it. But even in an English-speaking environment, I’ve run across some Latin roots and French phrases that are gobbledy-gook to other people—so it wasn’t a complete waste. It’s still the easiest way to be the smartest person in the room—knowing a language that no one else does, when that language pops up. And wouldn’t it be nice to watch a foreign film and not have to read the captions?
I got a new TV recently—I switched to LCD because my old Plasma screen acted as both television and space heater—very convenient in winter, but a real pain in the ass come summertime. My old buddy, Flippy, came by today to take the old monster off my hands—I hope he’s going to use it in a well-ventilated area. It was a huge, expensive TV, so I’m happy that it didn’t end up in the junk pile.
The new TV is disappointing—I bought a 32′ diagonal Sony LCD because I figured if I moved it closer to the bed (the big one was all the way across the room) it would have the same apparent size as the big one. But Sony tricked me—the screen is 32″, but the picture is much smaller, unless I go full zoom, which fills the screen but makes the picture grainier. Consumerism is such a bait-and-switch con game. Plus, the TV was surprisingly inexpensive, until I realized that I now need a sound system for it (the old, big one had it built-in) and the sound systems price out at about the same price as the new TV! So now, instead of being happy with my purchase, I’m watching a tinier screen with tinnier sound. Argggh!
One good thing about the new TV is that it’s Wi-Fi enabled. That means I can switch to Netflix or Hulu—I can even watch myself on my YouTube channel videos—that’s pretty cool.
Okay, here’s one of my favorite Bach pieces:
and since it’s a really nice composition, and I don’t play it that well, here’s the link for Glenn Gould, playing the same piece, but properly–and beautifully: