Sunday, January 20, 2008

One Touch Removed

One Touch Removed

In college I met a girl who had been to a Beatles concert a few years previously. She told me that she had been midway back in the audience, couldn’t hear a thing and could barely see the lads as they performed. But when the show was over, instead of moving with the crowd as it left, she stood behind a pillar in the auditorium and waited until the place emptied out. She made her way to the front and touched the boards of the stage. She told me that she cried to think that she was touching the very place where George Harrison’s boots had scuffed. She didn’t wash her hand for a week and her friends who hadn’t been to the show would often take her wrist and hold her palm to their cheeks. The power of touch, as remote as it may be.

I think about that as I think about the very long life of my great grand mother. She was one hundred when she died...born in 1863. I remember sitting on the porch with her when I was very young and she was very old. I asked her if, when she was a child, she knew anybody as old as she was now. She thought for a minute and then recalled to me a very old man named Messerschmidt who lived up the road from her house in Germany. She guessed that she might have been five or six years old then and that he was in his nineties. She couldn’t recall much but she knew he had a pet crow and that the crow could speak a few actual words.

I don’t know if I’ll explain the next part of this correctly; the Beatles and the stage and the old man and his crow and the touch. You see, my great grandmother, when she sat with me, would pat my hand while she talked. I imagine the old man would have patted hers. She was born in 1863. Lincoln was still in office. The old man must have been born around 1778. Washington was yet to be elected president. I have touched a hand that touched a hand that lived before the Constitution was written. One touch removed.

I’m somewhat saddened that with a health history that is problematic at best, I won’t reach the ages of my great grand mother and Herr Messerschmidt. If by some freak chance I do make it to 2045, I hope someone will bring me a baby so that I might pat its hand and sent it deep into the twenty-second century only two touches removed from the generation of the very birth of our nation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Mother and the Crow

Mom 1955

My mother was ninety-three when she died last month and frankly I was a bit surprised that she left so young. Her grandmother was well over one hundred when she died, so I just kind of assumed that mom, being in nearly perfect physical health at her last birthday, would probably carry on until at least 2015. But that didn’t happen. That dark crow, Alzheimer’s, hovering over her these last few years, made a last great swoop this past Autumn. He roosted somewhere in her mind and didn’t leave. There were, however, moments when he dropped his guard. These were not warm, blessed minutes of normalcy but tragic windows through which mom saw where she had been and where she was and where she was surely heading. Those were the terrified, “My God, what’s happening to my brain?” moments. It must have been in one of those brief, bright episodes that she devised a plan to beat the bastard; she’d starve him to death. In little more that three weeks she went from her usual eighty-six pound weight to about sixty-eight pounds. I am convinced that she had decided to kill the crow, even if it meant he’d take her with him. And she did. And he did.