I have finished Unpacking the Boxes, a memoir of Donald Hall, poet laureat.
The last two chapters..."The House of Grief" and "Planet of Antiquity." Both of these speak to me. House of Grief is his account of losing his second wife to leukemia, a former student he loved and married. The last is a recount of the slide into old age...important because I face it myself, and with my uncle in Santa Fe. This is what it must be like to get old, when younger folks, including my students, see you as old, but your mind isn't. When they see wrinkles and infirmities, but your mind and passion is still as fresh as it was when it was 20. Where everything is still present tense...where there is no past tense. And to dream of young loves.
I've watched my uncle in the last few years decline steadily, from the times when he propped himself on a shopping cart in a grocery store, slowly moving from one aisle to the next. In the parking lot, they saw an old man. I see a young sailor, a bachelor stud, and traveler, a teacher, a lover, with a passion for life earned from combat in WWII and Korea, from dirt poor in Comanche, Oklahoma, in the Depression to teaching around the world and living in Santa Fe. He may be aged, he may be getting feeble, but that's not who I see. I hear stories and living and loving.
He has saved me in difficult times, and with coffee in the morning and chess in the afternoons and "Cuba Libre"--rum and coke and lime--in the evenings--I have learned and enjoyed much about what and who is important.