Dealing with things


I awoke at 4:35 a.m. this morning.  My revival was a capitulation to the previous hour’s restlessness. I had set the alarm on my iPhone for 5:00 a.m. but as usual I anticipated the event. The plan was to be at the car dealership by 7:15 a.m.  Just routine maintenance and a gander at a loose plate cover where the seat controls are located.  I hadn’t my usual enthusiasm for the undertaking because it’s likely to be the last time I’ll be fretting about this particular car.  We’ve ordered another which, according to the salesman, will be manufactured in the week of August 3rd and delivered in the first week of September.

Even though we’ve ordered a new car I still feel obliged to fulfill the routine maintenance of the current vehicle, including the repair of the loose seat plate cover. Only recently I paid to have a tiny scrape on the driver’s side mirror repainted.  The cost was insignificant (even including the rental vehicle) and the satisfaction great though the effort it required was quite out of line with the scuff mark itself.  Nonetheless…if it can be corrected, why not?  Perhaps there is also a measure of suspicion at play, that the new deal isn’t done until it’s done; and until then it makes sense to do what the situation demands rather than falling into the trap of predicting the future and risking disappointment.  Anyway it’s a kind gesture for the people who are taking the car as a trade.

It has been days since I felt relaxed.  I haven’t slept well during the interval. Once I got myself showered this morning and put on fresh clothes I felt better. I’ve nothing to complain of other than my customary anxiety about getting everything done now.  I’m grateful that mother’s house sold quickly. Nonetheless it has been a long haul over the past four months.  My mother’s mental decline is incremental and daily observable.  Lately her perturbations are characterized in particular by paranoia.  Her uneasiness is of course completely unfounded and trivial but it makes for extremely difficult and fractious communication.  Because she oddly maintains a degree of credibility in whatever she says it is even more difficult to refute her assertions without becoming argumentative.  I feel the matter will only be at last resolved when she descends into nonsense entirely.  Until then it’s an annoying battle of wits.

Recent diversions have included considerable attention to the evolving and material world about me.  The breaking up of my mother’s house enflamed the household passions of both my sister and me and to a lesser degree my niece. We all “inherited” certain valuable possessions, things which come with not only their material import but also their psychological significance, reminding me for example as my father was accustomed to say, “Things don’t disappear, they just change hands”.  Privately I have undertaken some tangible emendation as well, the anticipation of which lightens my spirit.  What a horror it would be to be deprived of any one of the five senses!  Even as I stare at the dining room wall before me, I delight in the configuration of the eight wall paintings clustered there.  My, how I’ve dedicated myself to the frippery of my burrow!

Although I have settled into my first year of retirement to the extent that I no longer view the condition with a start, I have preserved the rudimentary strain of exhilaration.  It has nonetheless taken time to relinquish the utility I once enjoyed as an advisor though occasionally someone calls upon me for direction and I lend a qualified hand.  There has unquestionably been a corresponding diminution of the strength of several former associations but the greatest challenge is my own acceptance of my ability to bear the deprivation.  The effort entails a re-examination of the meaning and importance of friendship and social relations in general.  I can’t say that I or anyone else I know has proven exceptional in this arena.  It is if nothing else a reminder that one shouldn’t put too much stock in any alliance other than for its present value.

As the settlement of my mother’s affairs nears completion and the days of summer deplete with sustained almost jarring regularity I focus more and more upon our upcoming hibernation which now includes an examination of next year’s proposed venue on Tybee Island, Georgia.  When we get there to take a look we may be in for a revelation (either good or bad).  We might for example discover that the place is too small to endure for five months; on the other hand its seclusion and obscurity may have enormous appeal. Whatever happens it is thrilling for us to undertake this modest adventure.

I shall soon enter into the period which, as the most agreeable of my long life, was selected by the judgment and experience of the sage Fontenelle. His choice is approved by the eloquent historian of nature, who fixes our moral happiness to the mature season in which our passions are supposed to be calmed, our duties fulfilled, our ambition satisfied, our fame and fortune established on a solid basis (see Buffon). In private conversation, that great and amiable man added the weight of his own experience; and this autumnal felicity might be exemplified in the lives of Voltaire, Hume, and many other men of letters. I am far more inclined to embrace than to dispute this comfortable doctrine. I will not suppose any premature decay of the mind or body; but I must reluctantly observe that two causes, the abbreviation of time, and the failure of hope, will always tinge with a browner shade the evening of life.

Excerpt From: Edward Gibbon. “Memoirs of My Life and Writings.”