Monday, October 3, 2016

Death, taxes and moving

Lately I’ve been thinking about how moving is like dying. 

It’s not just that you’re leaving the known world for an unfamiliar one. It’s that sorting through your stuff is like that moment before death when you’re supposed to see your life flash before your eyes. In my case, the flash lights up a crude wooden heart carved by the guy who became my husband, the weird 3D photograph of my son and me at a friend’s birthday party, a note scrawled by my daughter on a torn scrap of paper—“I love mommy”—and the mildewed, now-too-small shoes I wore for over 30 years on every dress-up occasion. 

Moving is like dying because deciding what to toss and what to save is like writing your own epitaph, shaping how your children will remember you. I pore over every belonging with a view to what it will feel like for my daughter or son to stumble on it. I’ve thrown out that crappy novel I never finished writing: even I can’t remember how the American Egyptologist turned up dead in the Valley of the Kings—and I certainly don’t want my kids to find out how bad a writer I was. But I’ve saved an insane number of drawings by my children. I want my kids to find their old artwork and know how much I treasured every little accomplishment of theirs.

I wonder what it will be like in a month or two when I leave the apartment I’ve lived in for nearly 35 years and step into the one I will be living in till I really do die. I like to think I’ll be starting a new life. But I’m a little afraid I’ll be living in a graveyard.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hymn to Sunny Jim

If you were a dog you’d be a glossy golden retriever, but smart like a border collie, and loyal like a Lab, and cheerful like a Doodle. A big dog, with a loose-limbed lope. Happy-go-lucky and home-loving but with a muzzle sniffing for adventure and a wet lick for every friend.

What I can’t quite picture is you as a sick dog, with your head hung low, or even as a human being sick as a dog. (Where did that expression come from?) To me, you’ll always be a pup, gamboling—and gambling—through life. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

It takes all colors

Toeing the (nipple) line

The other day in yoga class, the teacher gave an instruction with a reference point that I’ve heard before and that always flummoxes me for a moment: the “nipple line,” as in “Place your hands [or whatever] at the ‘nipple line.’” 

Where did my nipples used to be? I ask myself. It’s been over 10 years since they were removed, along with the rest of my breast tissue, so the memory of their precise location has grown a bit vague.

The first time I heard this reference, I thought of it as peculiarly female-oriented, until I reminded myself that men have nipples, they just don’t have breasts. And then, on further reflection, I realized that it was actually more male-oriented than female-oriented since a woman’s nipple line changes with time. Indeed, my nipple line had certainly been traveling toward my waist before it disappeared entirely.

I’m thinking of writing a note to the Iyengars, who believe in stringent precision, asking them to possibly modify this kind of instruction, so that fools like me can stop getting lost in the weeds en route to their downward dogs.

Getting older, falling apart

Cars and people—same same. When Other and I moved to New York, we had an old Dodge Dart that we parked on the streets. Slowly the peripherals began to disappear in the night. The side-view mirror, the hubcaps, the gas cap. But its rebuilt engine remained strong. And weirdly, to us, no one stole the vanity license plate, which read Objet (objet d’art, get it?).

Four decades later, I’m suffering the same fate. My breasts, my lymph nodes, and bits of my face and back are scattered in pathology labs around the city. There seem to be more strands parked in my hairbrush than on my head some days. And now there’s talk of amputating a deformed toe—easier to take the toe than rebuild the entire foot, I’m told, especially in a person of my age. 

Pretty soon I’ll be told that it’s cheaper to buy a new body than to keep fixing the old one.