When I am an old woman I will sit by a window with a black shawl around my shoulders. I will tangle the knotted fringe of the shawl among my craggy fingers and look out at the snowy world.
I will be a quiet old woman. I will not be a Maggie Smith or a Shirley MacLaine. I will be content to mostly listen. But I will probably take notes on the conversations floating around me – so, be warned. I will choose a shawl over a sweater because of the freedom it allows my arms to reach for the cup of coffee balanced on the round table beside me. Most likely I will be served decaf by then. Just as well. There will be no late night requirements, no children to guide to the bathroom in the small hours, no sickness to witness, no early morning meetings, no tensing in the night at the thought of failure, ridicule, mortification.
Of course, the fear of death might keep me awake sometimes. But when I am old, there will be naps.
And time to read. I will sit by the snowy window with my shawl around my shoulders and a book in my hands. I will glance up occasionally from the page to measure the amount of snow on the ground with a discerning old eye and feel a momentarily loss for horses who need water and food, chickens who need to be checked, dogs who need to reassure themselves the world down the road still exists as they remember it. But then I will pull my shawl closer to my face and drag the fringe across my cheek in a gentle, comforting way and go back to my book. I will be an old woman by a snowy window draped in a shawl, maybe the same shawl I’ll be buried in when the time comes. It would be nice to be buried in a shawl. When our babies were babies we wrapped their larvae forms in shawls and there’s a symmetry there I wouldn’t want to let pass by. I suppose, though, it won’t be up to me.
Until then I’ll be quiet until there’s something to say, something to read aloud to people around me charged with my care and upkeep. I’ll bore them with poems. They’ll smile kindly at my daft mental wonderings. And bring me another cup of coffee with plenty of cream. “There, there,” they’ll say as they replace the shawl that slipped from my shoulders. “All is well, old dear. All is well.”
And when you slip off into your nap and your shawl slips off onto your lap, I’ll be there, watching you softly and I’ll kiss your forehead, right where your forelock lifts lightly off from your forehead, soaring into the sunlight. I’ll be there. I’ll draw your your shawl up around your shoulders and you’ll nod slowly, dreamily. I’ll be there.
That’s very sweet my love, and I love you, but… there’s a good chance you’ll beat me to the grave. Which shawl would you like to be buried in? xoxoxoxo
Once again, Andi you have hit all the notes in your essay on age. I’m now 70 but my mind is 30 – and I take comfort in the peace of a warm knitted throw made by your mother during those moments of rest and reflection. With hands around a coffee cups these are some of my best moments, and you have captured them. I enjoy listening to music, but not in these moments – the jazz of Miles Davis is all inside my head, and the silence is wonderful. Thank you with much love.
Oh, Eric. I wish I was there to replace your blanket when it slips. Love love love.
Manythanks to my talented and beautiful niece for the lovely thoughts. I wish that you, Mike and the boys could come visit Kate and me here in the Northern California small towns I love so much. We could all sit and read together and comment on the book, the world at large, or say nothing – and let the good feelings flow through us.
When one faces death as a given – not somewhere way down life’s road, not as a concept, but right in front of you and possibly soon, things change. That which seemed so urgent and important gets relegated to the background and becomes just details to be dealt with later. Old age and imminent death are strangely liberating – I find myself much more patient and forgiving, but have no truck with things that don’t matter (like endless meeting discussions that go nowhere and mean even less).
It’s almost 5:00 pm on a cold (low 40s) clear winter day and I’m now making myself a cup of coffee to warm my brain, heart and hands and thinking of you. I’m thinking that if I can force things and live through the summer, I need to make a Massachusetts/New Hampshire trip
Much love, Eric
I really liked this. Lovely imagery. I am closer by far to that old woman with her hands fingering the shawl than you are and the image brings me comfort.
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