The wheelchair guys, you will remember them, have just repaired my Swedish model, and not only that, dramatically amped up the speed. Pretty good, right? Perhaps not, upon reflection, and reflection is what it is all about. Where, after all, am I hurtling at such a rate? Lunch? Peet’s? Trader Joe’s? Please. None of these locations demands the wheelchair equivalent of a TGV. Though if there is such a thing, my Swedish model would be well on the way. And, you heard it here first, for future improvements in the performance of wheelchairs, in any dimension, I would not look to the United States of America. Sad, for we have more than enough technical and manufacturing capability to lead the world in this particular niche. What we lack is a stable market. And I stress the word ‘stable.’ Locked in the most savage internecine battles over healthcare, the US has become a most unattractive place to sell wheelchairs. Enough to make one wince.
And speaking of wincing, what else can one do in the face of achieving Medicare status, a.k.a., 65 years of old age? As I just have. The reality of which is still reverberating, but not unpleasantly. And this is the most remarkable thing, not to mention the most surprising thing, that I found the whole experience most enjoyable. One could attribute this to Jane, of course. She has not only an openhearted attitude toward the birthday experience, but an open-ended one. It should last several days, Jane believes.
Key here is the sort of blank-eyed response this elicits from me. Composed of several things. A certain mistrust, for one. Can she be serious? What is the trick? Or put slightly differently, what is the catch? An incredulity that does not spring from nowhere, for Jane is as overstressed as a person can be, up to her neck in Christmas decorations, Christmas costumes, Christmas carols, Christmas hymns, Christmas sermons…and more than I want to imagine. But there it is, one person under duress who genuinely wants me to have as expansive a birthday as a human being can manage. Because, the news gradually sank in, she means it. On a birthday, a person is special, let us say. And let us say it again and again, which she has. And for once in my lengthening life, I actually listened. That is the strange thing. But why?
Throughout the day, the celebratory day, this question loomed in the back of my mind. Perhaps 65 represented a safe zone. Okay, I have gotten here, notified the authorities that my life has been a sufficiently long one, particularly in view of the scant neuromuscular wherewithal. Having achieved this status in terms of mortality, well, all the rest is gravy, as they say. Could that be it?
Suffice it to say that I went with the celebratory flow. Eat out or eat at home? I kept thinking that Jane was tired and needed to go out, but she had nothing to say but pshaw. So we had a spectacular dinner table of fresh Pacific fish, equally fresh brussels sprouts grown in the coastal soils of Pescadero, just over the hill…like me…all in my own, my very own apartment. And what more is there except…chocolate cake from Draegers, placing me right on a caloric collision course, escape impossible…but I am a better man for the experience, never mind the waistline. Think of the shoreline. Source of the sanddabs we have had just before the dessert course. Preceded or accompanied, I cannot recall which, owing to the intake of red wine, by Jane’s present. A dinner party game, and more on this later, but the thing I would least likely buy for myself, and full of a certain statement about the lighthearted end of existence, the human’s capacity for the sprightly. Humor. Just for me.
My receptivity to all this being the surprise, a most pleasant surprise after six and half decades of Bracing for the End. An afternoon spent, in the language of wedding planners, something old, something new…. ‘The Artist,’ the European silent film – a new silent film – full of whimsy and delight and, most welcome on this particular birthday, little of consequence. It is also full of twists, particularly one at the very end. Yes, the plot leads us on a merry chase until arriving at a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that moment. Which is worth deconstructing.
For one gets to that moment through a process of muffling. Much is purposely left out. Selectively excluded…not to give too much away…which has the effect of limiting what is possible in the film. Creating a different sort of focus for the action. A narrow range of possibilities, which leads us down a sort of garden path, plotwise. Ending in a most pleasant and ironic discovery. Paralleling my life with a disability. Or perhaps any life with or without disability, for all I know. The only verdict being the one I give myself: Happy 65th.