It falls somewhere between dread and anxiety. While not quite constant, it is pervasive. To analyze this, to come to grips with it, there’s only one solution. Roll up my street, activate the ramp to my wheelchair van. And start the engine. Sit there. Let time pass. If this scenario sounds vaguely suicidal, that’s because it isn’t. No, there’s no hose running into the passenger cabin. There’s no hose at all. It’s just that death is on the mind. And why not? At age 68, this is to be expected. There’s no more laughing on the grim reaper. Not with close family and friends falling ill with various mortal conditions. So I sit there, a block up the street from my house, running the engine so the battery doesn’t go dead. That word again– it’s everywhere.
Thing is, so is life. It’s just that, like my car battery, the general discharge is somewhat unpredictable. So what is there to do, but keep charging at regular intervals? Batteries, windmills, you name it.
As for life, well just look around. There’s Jane. There’s me and Jane. There is our new house in our new city. It’s just that all this seems to have come so terribly late. It simply isn’t fair. But thank god it is. How many people get such a robust new start? And there is much evidence that I refuse to totally give up on “new.” Yes, age has gotten the better of me. I look at the roster for San Francisco’s upcoming literary festival, LitQuake, and can only recognize a couple of names.
And that’s the thing about writers and writing. The best always have a note of eternity about them. Well, that might be overstating it. But literature, almost by definition, spans generations and infuses great writing. Including, by the way, great comic writing. Remember, they’re just different masks.
In short, what is there to say but…courage. Oh, and that other word…enjoy.
After all, it’s practically Labor Day. And on this day I honor the labor of others–and I can only rejoice and be thankful for my freedom from labor. Of course, logically I must also be thankful for life itself. And remind myself several times a day that it was almost taken from me almost 50 years ago. Pretty good, living on half a century of borrowed time.
Fate has found me, successively, on the citizens’ advisory boards of two projects vaguely associated with California’s high-speed rail construction. Many of my colleagues on these committees, most of them in my age range, openly lament that they never expect to see the train line built. Not in my lifetime, I hear them say. In part, I cannot accept that this is true. Yet, sadly, looking at the nation’s decline, I have to admit that this is possible. And it may even be philosophically fitting. There has to be a last thing that one doesn’t see completed. In a way, that’s the whole idea.
The trick is to look forward to it, which I do. This very Tuesday, I will hear a progress report on the Transbay Center. This new railway station is supposed to be the terminus for the high-speed line to Los Angeles. Many oppose its construction. Others, like me, heartily support it, but also fear that the new station will only serve the regional rail line, Caltrain. Overall, it’s a lesson in perspective. Terminal indeed.