Heading toward the holidays, I anticipated being much more in evidence around here. Following the hectic build-up to Christmas, it seemed, a few quiet, blessedly blank days were in the offing–good for blogging as well as other essential activities too often deferred during life-as-usual: learning to knit; getting good and enveloped by the second season of The Wire, which has been sitting here keeping my Netflix subscription at a standstill for the last two or three months; and reading a book in longer sessions than the seven or eight minutes that expire, on a typical night, between when I shimmy beneath the covers and when my eyelids flutter, droop, and slam shut. For all these reasons, and for the overarching sense of exemption from many of life’s normal demands, that week between the holidays has always been a sweet little stretch of exceptions to most of the usual rules.
Sweet, this year, it wasn’t to be. Beginning with the scary but ultimately unharmful accident of an elderly relative on Christmas night, the last week of 2006 was crowded with illness and hospital visits. By New Year’s it seemed, at least, that all of these incidents had ended well. But last week my grandmother, who is ninety-two years old, wound up back in the hospital. Though she’s home again now, the doctors don’t believe her condition will improve. And I’d take workaday life as I used to know it, with all its impositions and little assaults on time and mind, gladly.
Somewhere during the six years since I last lost a grandparent, I realize, I’ve changed. Losing my grandfathers in 1996 and 2001 was difficult, of course. I mourned them and learned an absolute new way of missing someone. With my grandmother’s health failing now, I feel my own mortality implicated, and that of everyone I love–because I’m an older person now but also, I think, because past a certain age the end of a life ceases to seem premature, exceptional, unfair. There’s no sense of the injustice of circumstances to distract you from facing the necessity of the event: you can focus on the “why now?” instead of the “why?” It’s a colder, harder, more inexorable proof of the one inevitability. Besides which, you don’t miss someone any less just because they lived a long life.
Changing the subject, but only sort of, who out there saw Children of Men who has also read P.D. James’s book? I read perhaps a quarter of the book before venturing out to see the movie a couple of weeks ago. The latter experience was a frustrating one that has sent me back to the book fairly hungrily to see the founding concept of both book and movie–that the human race has gone almost two decades without being able to procreate–treated with some curiosity and imagination (I’m now about a third of the way through).
In Alfonso Cuar