Saturday, August 06, 2005

living up to expectations

If someone were to ask me what bugs me most about being fifty-two I would say, without hesitation, that it is the way in which you are pigeon-holed by younger people. Even well-meaning younger people. There is hardly a single younger friend that I have (and I would say that purely for idiosyncratic reasons, most of my friends are currently younger than I am) who hasn’t at one point or other said something or done something that shows how much they keep my age very prominent in their attitude toward me. I don’t mind. Usually. Sometimes though, I mind intensely.

I’ll give you a trivial example.

A friend said this a few days back: I ought to hang out with younger people more. Younger people are into music. Older people are not. (I am eleven years older than her.)

My immediate reaction was to actually want to land a punch at the side of her jaw and watch the teeth fall to the floor. But I love her dearly and so instead, I embraced my inner calm and made some lame comment about music this and that.

Music. When I moved from Poland to the States the first time around at the age of 7, I was sent to summer camp for two months. Even before falling in love with junk food and television, I took to the guitar that summer. I played in a self-taught sort of way all the way through high school (back in Poland for that). My boyfriend taught me interesting plunking techniques and I spent pretty much every evening of my adolescence fiddling with my guitar.

When I turned 16 (still in Poland) I collected my first paycheck for cleaning up refuse in the city parks of Warsaw. With that first paycheck I bought a violin and then paid for a year’s worth of violin lessons from a university student whose name I grabbed from the campus bulletin board (I was then a student too, but in Poland universities were free and students lived at home so you could use earnings to indulge your music cravings.)

Did all this die in middle age? No. One could well trace my midlife rebellion right back to music, in fact.

It’s just that, well, it’s just that when you are plunging ahead with your life, you look squarely at your options and, in years where you are strong, you set your priorities straight and you move forward. That movement included, for me, many years of scant contact with music.

Age? It has nothing to do with it! You either are a person who loves music, in all its shapes and sizes, or you are indifferent to it. You don’t outgrow it though. Ever.

Tonight, I spent some hours hanging around guitarists. They didn’t play nearly enough to keep me happy. But the grilled burgers made up for it.

Madison Aug 05 120

Madison Aug 05 122

Nocturnal guest

It is late, I am on the phone, the doorbell rings. I light up – he’s there! It's funny how such a visit, one that you weren't really sure would happen, can light up your entire day.

“I didn’t think you’d make it!” I tell him. “Oh, I am so happy to see you!”
He comes in, sits down at the kitchen table, we talk. I show him my new computer, he admires it, tries out a few keys. “Nice…” he comments.

He paces around the house and says eventually –“Do you mind if we go outside?” It’s a dark night. He’s not familiar with my yard. I feel conspiratorial as I get the flashlight. The beam isn’t strong. I remember that the last time I checked the batteries of this light was when my daughter needed it for camp some half dozen years ago.

“It’s buggy,” he tells me. Inside again, I look at his mosquito bite, right there, just above the fingers of his hand. Good sturdy fingers – should play the piano, I think to myself, even though I know the keys he touches are mostly those of a computer keyboard.

It’s nearly 11 now. “I really have to call it a day” he says. “Tomorrow, I'm going to try to arrange it so that I can come back to morrow morning, okay? If not, then we'll have to plan on early in the week.” I smile. “Of course! I am so grateful to you!”

He leaves quickly, as if it only now strikes him that he has stayed too long.

Now, in the morning, I am waiting for the doorbell to ring again. I am hopeful.

UPDATE: Phew! He just left. Worked up a sweat today, that's for sure! He's younger than I am used to seeing here -- all enthusiastic about going to grad school to become a physical therapist. He likes being around people, he tells me. I can see that!

[this post is dedicated to him, the Internet repair person from Charter Communications.]