Sunday, September 9, 2018

NOTES FROM THE 8TH DECADE #20


SEVENTY-FIVE
Spring 2014



Seventy-five, or 75, either way it’s a rather nice number, combining the number 7 with my favorite number, 5.  Maybe that is why I have treated this latest birthday with so much optimism and enthusiasm.  Gone is the gloom and doom that was seeping into my mind a few years ago, when I felt the best years of my life were behind me. It is true that lost opportunities cannot be recovered, but in their place are remarkable new opportunities - the chance to pursue dreams with a freedom and abandonment unfettered by the responsibilities of youth. I have promised myself to take advantage of this opportunity with newly re-claimed vim and vigor (meaning only one nap a day and staying awake until at least 9:30 every night).

In the last 5 years I’ve spent considerable time looking at the past, and will continue to do so because it remains rich with memories that I cherish, but the real focus now will be on what is yet to come. What makes this time so unique and unlike the past is not having so many other issues and tasks competing for my attention. There is a narrower and sharper focus that is enhanced by the uncertainty of the future. Every day, every week, every month is a gift.

I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to accomplish, and have set out to do so, one day at a time. I am excited about the future, and for this I am most grateful.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

THE LITTLE MAN




Mom  1985
 
When I was a young boy, perhaps 4 or 5 years old, my mother would occasionally give me a special treat, unexpected and unrelated to anything I did or did not do or to any holiday or celebration. It was usually something to do with art: crayons, a coloring book, perhaps a set of watercolor paints, and occasionally there was a piece of candy or a pack of gum. She told me a little man had brought them for me, and I had no problem believing her. Although I never met this little man, and never inquired about his identity, he became an important person in my young life.

The little man quietly disappeared in the years that followed. I don’t remember ever asking about him, and although I may have forgotten him, he never forgot me. That little man gave me so much more than an occasional special gift. Quietly and without my awareness (blinded by the self-centeredness of youth), the gifts continued, gifts that would remain with me for the rest of my life, helping me navigate the years ahead.

The little man was remarkable, wise in ways that cannot be taught. He had the uncanny ability to see people as they really were, to understand them and be sensitive to their needs and their failings. One of his greatest gifts was the ability to make people in his presence feel appreciated and special. He was devoted to me, loving and caring, but wise enough to trust me to go out into the world to become what I was intended to be. He never asked for anything in return, and wanted only for me to be happy. I have spent my entire life standing on his shoulders, and intend to remain there until the day I die.

The “little man” left us on a gray December day in 1991, but her gifts to me, and to others in her life, have endured endlessly. 



Mom  1985


Mom & Billy Mattioli in our front yard circa 1955

Saturday, September 1, 2018

NOTES FROM THE 8TH DECADE #19


RITES OF PASSAGE
February 2014 

An ageing doctor

There are several rites of passage that mark our entrance into the “senior years” of life. The first, the most passive of the lot, is the arrival of the Medicare card. I remember very clearly my reaction to seeing that card with my name on it: “this can’t be real!  I’m looking at a Medicare card with MY name on it. My father and mother had Medicare cards: what am I doing with one?” In all honesty I must say that my exaggerated bewilderment was accompanied by an amazing sense of relief and comfort, having just been several months without any medical coverage.

I got over it.

The second Rite applies only those who usually pee standing up – the dwindling urinary stream. Gone are the days of peeing over a bush into the neighbor’s yard. Now you’re happy if you can pee without getting your shoes wet.

I’ve had that problem fixed.

The third Rite…getting a cataract removed, and yesterday I had one removed from my left eye. The one in my right eye is next. I will spare you the details of this relatively simple (from the patient’s point of view – no pun intended) procedure, but I will share this single tidbit of information for those of you anticipating such an event.

Since yesterday morning I have had 1,219 drops instilled in the involved eye.

But it is worth it, because besides seeing the world better, I get to wear these cool Ray Bans.

Monday, August 27, 2018

NOTES FROM THE 8TH DECADE #18


MEMORIES - THE THREAD OF LIFE
February 2014



The past is not something we can leave behind. Even when we think we have, our memories, those remembered and those not, remain tucked away in the attics of our mind. Some are buried deeply in boxes never opened and covered with years of dust, and others are strewn about, easily retrievable on demand. Then there are the special ones, carefully kept in gilded, ornate boxes that we lovingly open from time to time, and finally there are those well-worn memories that we hold close to us and keep by our bedside as a constant companion. Remembered or not, these snippets from our lives are always with us. Memories create threads running through our lives, weaving a fabric of continuity and meaning that help us navigate the future. If our lives were books, memories would be the table of contents, directing us to a particular place and time.

It seems to be universal, the older we get the more we want to remember our past, and the events and circumstances that helped create who we are.  They become increasingly important, and we cherish them, albeit selectively.  Psychologists remind us that our memories are filtered by time, and cannot be taken as literal historic truths. Filtered or selective, their importance to understanding our selves cannot be denied, and they remain a vital part of the journey.

It was only after I reached adulthood that I realized how fortunate I was to have the parents and family that I did, and as a result, with very few exceptions, I have only good memories. Not everyone has been so fortunate, and I wonder how people deal with the pain and sorrow of bad memories as they make their way in life. Can they coexist with happiness and better circumstances, or do they have to be repressed and forgotten. 

Memories help us understand who we are, by showing us where we have been, revealing how the person we are has unfolded from what we were. They enable us to see the past with the wisdom of gathered years, often revising our impressions and allowing us to see what we may have missed the first time around.

I cherish my memories, holding them fast and close to me, even more as the years accumulate (something they inevitably do). I’m aware that the very old seem to go back into time, reliving the distant past. That gives me comfort; I look forward to pulling up long forgotten stories.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

NOTES FROM THE 8TH DECADE #17 What a difference a year makes


What a Difference a Year Makes

2013 is the year that dispelled all the self-imposed age related restraints I had been laboring under in recent years.  The key word here is “self-imposed”, because my body has its own set of restraints that cannot be denied.  But they have no place in this narrative.

I had foolishly convinced myself that my best work was behind me, and there was no longer a place in my life for grand, sweeping aspirations and goals. My work would now be slow, deliberate, and a lot less ambitious.  (Picture a tired old fart sitting in his studio ever so slowly working at an easel.)  I was that close to putting myself out to pasture.

Then came the Paducah Portfolio, After working for months on large canvases in 2012 for a gallery show in which nothing sold, I reacted by focusing all my efforts on smaller drawings and paintings, and the Paducah Portfolio was conceived.  With few exceptions, I devoted the entire year to the project, and in the process wiped out all of my nonsensical notions about age and work.  It is impossible to overstate how significant this has been for me.

I am facing 2014 with a head filled with ideas of things I want to do, which I will approach with the attitude that I will live forever.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

NOTES FROM THE 8TH DECADE #16


ALONE WITH MYSELF  
2013



Interesting things have been happening to me over the past four or five years, some of them physical, but many of them not. The subjective changes share a common theme – moving inward in my search for meaning and direction in these later years.

With each year, a bit of the world around me seems to melt away, leaving me increasingly alone, but not in an unpleasant way. I have become less involved in neighborhood and community affairs, preferring the solitude of my studio and study. My focus now is more on moving inward. I spend as much time looking back as I do looking ahead, trying to understand what I have accomplished and, the people I have encountered, wondering how it all fits into this later stage of my life. I am convinced that there is a common thread running through all of our years, and perhaps understanding that can be a helpful guide in navigating the future.”

This morning the word “isolated” best describes how I feel. Age, location, and circumstances contribute to this, but mostly it is the result of my desire to move inward. There is comfort in considering this as one more period of transition in a life of transitions, leading to an eventual resting place for my soul.

I continue to enjoy sharing food and wine (should read – pasta and wine) with our friends, although with Patience working full time we cannot entertain as often as we would like. I prefer the intimacy of smaller gatherings of friends and acquaintances to larger social functions. At this halfway point I can safely say the eighth decade continues to be full of surprises with its unanticipated changes. I can only wonder, what’s coming next?

Monday, August 6, 2018

OPEN V. CLOSED




Building a wall around our country, either physical or through government action can only occur if you build one around your mind and your heart. Both are the result of deeply rooted fear and insecurity, and an unwillingness to face the inevitability of change.

For several days the notion of opened and closed minds and hearts has been intruding into my thoughts. To be open minded is to be receptive to arguments and ideas that may conflict with your own, whether on not you agree or embrace them. It allows one to enter into unfamiliar territories and circumstances without knowing all that lies ahead. It implies a willingness to accept a certain measure of risk.

Parallel to the open mind is an open heart, a concept that may be more difficult to define. Matters of the heart include love, compassion, and empathy, all of which are offered universally and without conditions and unrestrained by technical and/or legal issues.

Opposing the open mind and heart would be the closed, and/or restrictive mind and heart, easily dampened by fear and insecurity, conscious or otherwise. These fears include the fear of change and confronting the unfamiliar, and the fear of loss of identity and place in the world order. For some there is a deep concern for what they perceive as a social and/or legal injustice and unfairness.

Writing this, two questions quickly come to mind. Do we, as individuals, have much choice in these matters, or are they “psychological types” that are given to us by DNA and family nurturing? And am I demonstrating my own prejudices by the way in which I have presented this material?