Sunday, September 25, 2011

Used to Be

I'm thinking today about yesterday. It's something aging people do since they've got so much more time behind them than in front of them. And for me, a professional historian, thinking about yesterday is habitual. It's a mode of thought that's most comfortable for me. I tend to think in aggregates, the big picture, the big things: nations, empires, broad historical currents, 50-year, 100-year blocks. There are probably historians personally constituted differently than I who don't do this. I can attest that this mode of thought often causes me to miss what's perfectly obvious to other people. Which is to say I am sometimes not exactly what you could call present-minded. My forgetfulness for the immediate is legendary, and it's only worsened with the passage of time.

There seem to be so many "used to be's" floating around my life. The most obvious is the "I used to be able to remember things." But there's a whole raft of others. Take heed, you young people. This is what awaits you.

I used to:
  • Be able to taste and smell better than I do now
  • Be able to drink fairly respectable amounts of alcohol. No more. No desire to either. (and of course I realize how malleable this "amount" would be, but you know what I mean)
  • Be able to play a much stronger game of chess
  • Be able go whole weeks without being bothered by a single pain in my body
  • Be able to count on regular functioning in the GI tract
  • Be able to go merrily along without having a bunch of my friends and friends of friends dealing with some more or less dangerous illness
  • Be able to get by with a lot fewer daily urinations
  • Be able to remember bands, book titles and their authors, movies and who was in them, etc.
  • Be able to spell better, not to mention remember everything in my vocabulary immediately
  • Be able to . . . 
Well, you see how corporeal all these things are. There's no getting around the fact that your body reminds you the most often of the land you now inhabit. And the people you bring your ailing body to? These doctors? Hell, a lot of them look like teenagers to me.

I don't think this is a lament. Well, maybe just a little. But mostly it's just rumination. Body and mind are telling us things . . . and most of the time not too subtly.
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