My dad loved to run movies and was a compulsive photographer. The draft board branded him 4F at the inception of the Second World War due to a stammer. He completed a speech therapy program in the late 40s and was able, except when anxious, to communicate normally. Still, showing films or taking photos kept him on the comfortable periphery the social events he loved to plan and host.
I return to my photo scanning project this week and remember why I burned out the first time around. I find the green scrapbook that documents the years on Fulton Avenue before my sister's “trouble” started and my parents divorced. Cocktail parties and screening nights. The beautiful house with the perfectly detailed screening room that they took so much pride in. My sister dancing the twist at her 17th birthday party. My parents doing the Cha Cha and smoking Kents and sipping martinis. The end, with the acrimonious fighting is what I remember most but the old Kodachrome photos attest to what I imagine is the happiest time in their lives.
On the day of my 58th birthday my friend Richard calls to remind me that my birthday mate Zsa Zsa Gabor is turning 98. This makes me feel downright juvenile. My physician marvels at my annual physical that I have the heart rate of an athlete or someone very old who's about to drop dead. Due to other test results he's going with the former. I notice that he has put on a few pounds himself so I am spared a lecture about my own increased tonnage.
How funny to be at the stage in life where the yearly physical exam is anticipated with high anxiety. I try to remember what I thought about and hoped for when I was 19 (Spuds) or 22 (Joe College). I remember the music, books and films I liked. There were jobs and travel and friends for life whose names escape me now when I look at old photos. I can't however tap much into the stream of consciousness that accompanied this period of my life. The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that I never ever thought about being 58 years old.
It is no surprise that our new glasses are stronger than last year. We go to York Avenue in Highland Park to fetch them. The gentrification of the area is a huge thorn in Himself's butt but it doesn't bother me all that much. It boosts our home equity. Like just about everywhere else we go, we have the dog. I walk her while Himself goes to get his specs. There is an upscale design store offering a row of typewriters as décor objects. My kids regard my having typed on one of these for decades just like I consider the tales my dad told me about having to crank his first car.
A trendy shop sells pressed juice, acai and pitaya. Because I don't really know what these things are, it is clear I don't need them. Particularly as most of the items on the menu cost ten bucks or more. Next door is a shop selling vapes and e-cigs. Gentrification it seems means the sale of expensive things that aren't for me in places I don't need to be. Although the establishment called “Donut Friend,” may be an exception.
For the most part I feel good. The weird thing is now that most of my decisions don't evolve around the kids, at 58 it seems like every choice I make is complicated by not knowing when I'm going to die. Will I soldier on like birthday mate Zsa Zsa or should I make sure my affairs are in meticulous order? Will I regret having spent money on traveling or when I am no longer fit to wander the world will I regret not having done so? Should I opt for the expensive dental procedure that will last thirty years or is the cheap fix just fine? I've been worried about this stuff for some time now and the older I get, the more preoccupied I become. Those “Will you outlive your money?” commercials sure don't help.
Vinyl records, typewriters and princess phones, the accouterments of my youth are hot shit nostalgia items. Pressed juice, Instagram and streaming torrents elude me. My dad was mystified by the fax machine, computer and cell phone. I love my Iphone, Kindle and Roku although I often have to confer with the kids for functionality issues. I love that if I wanted to I could move this whole paragraph to the top of the page with two keystrokes. I love not having to use carbon paper or White Out. I love that my kids don't have to worry about finding a payphone when they're in trouble. I love that all of the music I need is on my phone. I do not particularly love that every morning when I rise I am another day closer to inevitable death but I love that at least this increases the imperative to suck the marrow out of every moment. The green photo album shows my parents happy with a beautiful home and a new baby in the late 50s. This clearly was the time of their lives. Perhaps I'll live until I'm 89 just like my mom and dad but maybe such longevity is not in my cards. I still believe though, that no matter what, the best is yet to come.