When I was younger, I loved old things. Not too old, mind—not antiques. Just things old enough to show wear.
In fact, so long as they showed sufficient wear, so long as they were ratty and scratched enough, even a little bit of age did the job. They needed to look, in other words, aged.
That’s the particular insecurity of the young.
Every young person vies with every other young person for authority, for importance and the deference of others. Deference is given to those who are worldly wise—who have seen some things. Those who know.
There is no better way to demonstrate this particular quality when you’re young but to wear and be surrounded by things that demonstrate just how much battle you have seen, how many times you’ve been around the world on barely-maintained trains in forgotten countrysides where once there was this war or that one, and so on.
Never mind that as a teen or young twenty-something, it’s all likely a pose.
It’s instinctive. You want to be one of the silverbacks.
— § —
Now that I’m racing down the other side of the hill, my relationship to old things—particularly to my old things—is far more complicated.
Now things are old just because they’ve been around long enough to see decay. Now they are reminders that I, too, have seen decay.
That’s a hard pill to swallow at times.
And yet at the same time, things that have grown old are also things that are familiar, that are part of you, that are domestic and comfortable.
There’s a very strange feeling that I don’t have a word for when I look around now and see, for example, that paint job that I did that was once so fresh and white and new and is now ratty and scratched and shows all the signs of having been lived-with.
To see the light fixture that I installed, now with a dent and covered in dust, or the car that was once a bundle of shiny surfaces and clean, straight edges now a matter of fading paint and bumps and irregularities.
They’re the things of my life; they hold memories of myself and my children, I liked them (even loved them in some cases) and continue to do so.
They’re things in the throes of death, they are evidence that those beloved versions of self and children have also passed long away, never to return, and part of me itches to replace them, even as another part of me silently cries out with some sort of pathetic longing for something closer to immortality.
— § —
But it is what it is.
— § —
I’m in the middle of painting and flooring another room.
If there’s one constant since my divorce, it’s that I’m in the middle of painting and flooring a room. I think that’s what happens when you divorce; something in you snaps and begins to crave the smell of volatile organic compounds and after that you compulsively fill your existence with them, painting and flooring like a madman without even realizing it.
— § —
I’m also in the middle of living my last… month? quarter? year? weekend?
…with my dog. She continues to do “okay but not great” as has been the state of things for at least three weeks now. It’s now been five weeks since the emergency surgery that saved her life but also revealed the presence of a large tumor—since removed, but believed by the doctor to likely be malignant.
It continues to be unclear what works and what doesn’t.
It continues to be clear that sometimes she feels well and happy and sometimes she doesn’t.
— § —
Here’s how my life works.
Every time I’ve gone outside since the first chill of fall, I pause at the door and think, “I should put on that knit cap I have.”
Then, I look around the entry area for it, can’t find it, and at some point think, “Oh, right. I think it’s in the car. I’ll put it on when I get in.”
Between the door and the car, I forget entirely, and when I get into the car and sit down, I don’t put it on.
I couldn’t if I tried, because in fact every time I return to my office, sit down, and start to use this keyboard, I spot said knit cap sitting next to my keyboard and think, “why in the world is that in here…I need to take it back to the entryway when I head that direction.”
The next time I head that direction, of course, I don’t even remember that I’ve had the thought.
So here the knit cap has been, beside my keyboard since October as I type.
And my head has been uncovered the entire time when outside.
That’s how my life works.