Re: Speaking Of Getting Old

1

It is a lovely piece, if often as crushingly sad as you might expect. Also, I had been reading his recent baseball pieces and thinking "man, that guy has to be old." Turns out, I was right! Go, me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 6:55 AM
horizontal rule
2

It is very good. If you like it I recommend his book, Let Me Finish. It is a fine set of autobiographical, non-baseball, essays. Also an essay from 2012 (behind the NYer paywall) Over the Wall treats the same theme as the linked essay. A quote from it:

What the dead don't know piles up, though we don't notice it at first. They don't know how we're getting along without them, of course, dealing with the hours and days that now accrue so quickly, and, unless they divined this somehow in advance, they don't know that we don't want this inexorable onslaught of breakfasts and phone calls and going to the bank, all this stepping along, because we don't want anything extraneous to get in the way of what we feel about them or the ways we want to hold them in mind.

Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:11 AM
horizontal rule
3

It is very good. If you like it I recommend his book, Let Me Fin

Imma let you finish, but John McPhee has the greatest narrative nonfiction of all time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:12 AM
horizontal rule
4

I have most of McPhee's books and only one of Angell's, and I always looked for McPhee in the tables of contents, so I can't disagree. What has been interesting about Angell and McPhee lately is the personal, reminiscent, turn in their writing. Yes, they're old (Angell is very old) and that explains it in part. McPhee's latest essays on writing what he wrote is fascinating.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:23 AM
horizontal rule
5

I actually think they're both fantastic (and both old). I just... I just went for the stupid joke.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:24 AM
horizontal rule
6

I think that is the 2000 Year Old Man's advice: "Always go for the stupid joke". So you're good.

(Speaking of old, Billy Crystal looks almost as old as Mel Brooks!)


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:34 AM
horizontal rule
7

What clued me in to how old he was: E. B. White was his step-father!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:49 AM
horizontal rule
8

Thank goodness the definition of old keeps getting older.

Related: never ask someone younger than 25 how old old is.

Also related: avoid thinking about your parents at your current age bc that will just make you feel old.

Also also related: my back, joints, feet hurt more than they did when I was younger.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:49 AM
horizontal rule
9

This is only vaguely on topic, but I had a really strange conversation with my adviser the other day, when he'd gotten wind that I was keeping my options open as far as whether or not I intended to go into academia. He handed me a pack of cards on his desk, and said "have I shown you these?" They were death notices for emeritus faculty that the university sends out to all the tenured faculty, probably at least a hundred of them, that he had collected. "Look at them," he said, "the median age is probably 90. That's why I'm an academic."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:54 AM
horizontal rule
10

Uhhhh. The ones who died young didn't make emeritus.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:58 AM
horizontal rule
11

The death notices are cards? Like baseball cards?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:58 AM
horizontal rule
12

Speaking of aging and breast implants, I'd think that the subtle, moderate-plus breast implants are going to start to look at lot less moderate when the women wearing them hit 80 or so.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:01 AM
horizontal rule
13

11: they don't have pictures, but yeah they're like little black-rimmed things on card stock with a couple biographical details. Very collectible.

10: I think they actually send one for any faculty member that dies, it's just that the vast majority (all the ones I looked at) were emeritus; that's just my phrasing being weird.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:04 AM
horizontal rule
14

13.1: I assume a few basic stats. Number of peer-reviewed publications, number of times cited, etc.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:08 AM
horizontal rule
15

Now that is a long form essay that earned every word its length. God bless that guy. I liked "no brandishing." Also he contains 100% of the history of the New Yorker in his mind, given his parents.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:08 AM
horizontal rule
16

I thought it was decent. It has a lot of the "it's great to grow old as a well-off white guy" aspect to it. Like those old Harvard guys. Recent and not so recent surveys (including the six-decades-long Grant Study of the lives of some nineteen-forties Harvard graduates) confirm that a majority of us people over seventy-five keep surprising ourselves with happiness.

My deep-seated unfounded bitterness, let me show you it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:33 AM
horizontal rule
17

I thought it was decent.

It was the best piece of writing that I've read in a long time. From now on you should only be able to use the pseud "President Carter".


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:38 AM
horizontal rule
18

You just liked the part about the limping.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:40 AM
horizontal rule
19

I've started up the slopes of this hill most of you can only see in the distance, and want to testify to the excellence of this piece. I've stolen time in a ridiculously secure no-internet facility to say it.

More later, more venery, kid.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:44 AM
horizontal rule
20

17: I agree that it represents a magnificent triumph of the patriarchy.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:50 AM
horizontal rule
21

But yes, by not following the standard parody-of-oneself trajectory, he already transcends most aging writers.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:52 AM
horizontal rule
22

avoid thinking about your parents at your current age bc that will just make you feel old

Especially if you're already older than one of them ever got to be.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:56 AM
horizontal rule
23

I've started up the slopes of this hill most of you can only see in the distance

Blue Hill? It's actually kind of foggy today, so I can't see it. I wouldn't have figured they'd have plowed the fire road.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 8:57 AM
horizontal rule
24

I'm glad I read it, but now I want to just sit and cry for the rest of the day.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:12 AM
horizontal rule
25

I thought his descriptions of his view of both personal family tragedies and the deaths of others was one of the best parts. I called my mother the other day and she said in a very matter-of-fact tone, "You caught me; I was looking through my notebook of death notices."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:25 AM
horizontal rule
26

Ask her how many of the notices are about emeritus faculty.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:27 AM
horizontal rule
27

Probably some number of them, she was in pretty tight with a number of folks from the local university. Although given her age and gender and significant involvement with the League of Women Voters, more likely the wives of emeritus faculty.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:33 AM
horizontal rule
28

My dad goes for coffee with a group of old men that includes one of my old Poli Sci professors.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:34 AM
horizontal rule
29

I assume he's emeritus.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:35 AM
horizontal rule
30

a really strange conversation with my adviser

It's odd, probably only to me, that so many academics can't see that behavior like this is practically its own counterargument. Of course, I'm an academic who's still not sure if he should go into academia.


Posted by: simulated annealing | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
31

The current report from the station on the Great Blue Hill is troubling. No snowfall in February! None on the ground!? Those are observer dependent?


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:45 AM
horizontal rule
32

9: I don't know many of them personally, but that characteristic is what I always relied on with regard to members of IEEE to continue to keep their really inexpensive Term Life Insurance inexpensive. Way back in the day when I joined, one of my "sponsors" was an EE from Pitt, I threw him some line of BS about why I wanted to join, and he replied that if my motivation for joining wasn't the insurance I was an idiot.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
33

"Never trust a fart, never ignore an erection"


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:53 AM
horizontal rule
34

I envy Angell's (apparent?) equanimity. My pile of dead people isn't as high as his (yet?) but I'm only now beginning to be able to see over it on good days and not at all on bad. It's been just a bit over three years since the DE died and in that time three other of my relatives and friends have died, and one has turned himself into a semi-vegetable via an OD.

I did not expect the assorted losses to hit as powerfully as they did nor for the fog take so long to start dissipating. Perhaps the Nineties are different? I can't conceive of getting that far to find out.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:00 AM
horizontal rule
35

My pile of dead people has been growing slowly since I was a little kid, and I haven't really noticed a difference much since I became officially old. Are there really people who live till they're nearly senior citizens insulated from mortality?

I admit that I haven't quite reached the stage where, as my dad put it (probably quoting somebody), "you open the paper at the obituaries to see if there's anybody you know there", but I can feel it coming.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:22 AM
horizontal rule
36

Do google news alerts include the non-news obituary pages? Because that would save you time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:25 AM
horizontal rule
37

The same thing struck me, bio (hello). But one of the lovely things about the piece was that he very subtly differentiated between the piles of dead and the ones that kicked him in the teeth.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:25 AM
horizontal rule
38

In a month it will be two years since my two anarchist friends died within a week of each other. Still think about them all the time. The younger one, the one who died in the house fire, particularly was one of those too-good-for-this-wicked-world types of people. Even just 2 years without him is a major loss, hard to think about what it will be like to have been missing him for 30 or 40.

I expect to predecease quite a few of you, giving my overall poor health, but whichever of us goes first, I'd like to say that it has been good (and hopefully will continue to be good for a long time yet) to know all of you, even with the flame wars and what not.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:29 AM
horizontal rule
39

Are there really people who live till they're nearly senior citizens insulated from mortality?

IMX not at all insulated, but mostly untouched. I'd note that "shit happens", feel sad for a few days, and then go back to doing whatever. This past three years has been entirely different. I can sense my past and thus myself disappearing ever faster.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:30 AM
horizontal rule
40

At 45, my pile of dead is much larger than I imagined it would be by now.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:32 AM
horizontal rule
41

Right, not insulated, and I've been to many funerals for people I've known, but only my father has died from my nuclear family. My mother is still lucid and fairly healthy and both my siblings are healthy, although each has lost a spouse.

So death to the people closest to you might not happen until the verge of old age, yes.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:40 AM
horizontal rule
42

I was reminded reading the piece of something that I believe comes up in one of David Markson's later novels (ogged, can you confirm this?)—phone calls to deceased friends' answering machines, to hear their voices again, before the messages are changed. Or something along those lines.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:46 AM
horizontal rule
43

42: Yeah, I've been havering about deleting one of my extraneous FB accounts because it still has the friendship with one of the deceased mentioned above. And that of one of my college friends who OD'd a few years ago. And I still have the other dead friend's phone number in my phone. Can't see my way clear to deleting that just yet.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:50 AM
horizontal rule
44

Maybe a bit too lighthearted for this thread, but listening/watching this year's United States of Pop made me feel old: I didn't recognize any of the songs. Oh, except for that Miley Cyrus one.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:57 AM
horizontal rule
45

Since a favorite aunt and uncle died in a car crash this summer, I've had their obituaries open in a browser window on my phone. Not something I planned even one little bit, but have just never felt like closing it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 10:57 AM
horizontal rule
46

Found the ending quite cheering - heavily implied he and his wife had an active sex life until shortly before her death. Also completely relate to their mutual desire that the survivor not tarry in finding a new love. Hope he meets someone congenial soon!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
47

37: True. but this is where he and I apparently differ: (Welcome back!)

"The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn't bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming."

Maybe, if I live long enough, I'll learn how to do this, or maybe, as someone suggested to me on FB, he's just built that way and I'm not. For sure "quite quickly" doesn't describe my experience, nor does he seem to have flirted with flinging himself on the pile to get it over with.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:07 AM
horizontal rule
48

ogged, can you confirm this?

That sounds very familiar.

It reminds me that I've saved voicemails from people just in case they die and I want to listen to them.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:16 AM
horizontal rule
49

"quite quickly" doesn't describe my experience

Yeah, I hear you there.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:17 AM
horizontal rule
50

It reminds me that I've saved voicemails from people just in case they die and I want to listen to them.

Me too.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:25 AM
horizontal rule
51

Page 139 of The Last Novel:

"A quirky new impulse of Novelist's, at news of several recent deaths--
Dialing the deceased, in the likelihood that no one would have yet disconnected their answering machines--and contemplating their voices one eerie final time."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:39 AM
horizontal rule
52

It's going to be very lonely for L. here in 2050 when she is the last commenter standing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:41 AM
horizontal rule
53

My mom died a year ago today. This was a nice thing to read.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:44 AM
horizontal rule
54

Condolences, Blume.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:45 AM
horizontal rule
55

I can imagine myself in the quite quickly camp.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:47 AM
horizontal rule
56

Maybe, if I live long enough, I'll learn how to do this, or maybe, as someone suggested to me on FB, he's just built that way and I'm not.

It's sure hard to tell. One of the things he describes is his own kid's suicide, which sure seems like it would be enough to permanently take out anyone's spirit. Or maybe he just doesn't expect to be alive at all.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:48 AM
horizontal rule
57

Yes, and condolences to Blume, and to everyone else still grieving.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 11:49 AM
horizontal rule
58

Actually read the OP's link now, and 24 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 1:18 PM
horizontal rule
59

The guy who used to have my office died a few years back. I've changed the outgoing message on the phone, but apparently if you call while I'm on the phone and I don't answer the call waiting, Dead Jack tells you that he can't answer the phone right now, from the grave, and you should leave him a message.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 1:24 PM
horizontal rule
60

An ex (at the time) of mine died unexpectedly at an untimely early age. In an act of private grief, I sent him an email about a month later. Eerily, within 15 minutes an email arrived in my Inbox, with his name on it. It turned out to be from his father, who has the same first & last name, to whom I had sent an email about two weeks earlier.

More than 6 years after his death, I still have messages from him on my answering machine.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 1:48 PM
horizontal rule
61

I have lots of pictures, no voice mementos, but I still remember the voices vividly. I guess, should it come to pass that I can no longer recall them, it won't matter to me.

It's probably a Good Thing I don't have voice records available. I can easily imagine myself falling into a listening trap, the pictures are plenty distracting as it is. I can't quite yet bring myself to zip them all up to make them harder to get at.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 2:26 PM
horizontal rule
62

8
Also related: avoid thinking about your parents at your current age bc that will just make you feel old.

I can guess but can't speak from experience. I wasn't alive when my parents were my age. (This is the thread for trying to make people feel old, right?)

35
My pile of dead people has been growing slowly since I was a little kid, and I haven't really noticed a difference much since I became officially old. Are there really people who live till they're nearly senior citizens insulated from mortality?

I haven't read the article yet, but I would guess it's different whether the people in the pile are older than your generation or not. I've dealt with the death of my grandmother, my mother's cousin, and several other relatives or friends of the family who were older than my parents. Some of them hit kind of close to home, but still, they're older than my parents. They're supposed to die well before me. Losing someone my age or a younger relative would probably come as a much bigger shock.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 3:03 PM
horizontal rule
63

62.1 :

I'm kind of in the same boat. When my dad was my age I was a baby and he and my mom had three more kids after me whereas my kids are both in high school.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 3:20 PM
horizontal rule
64

I had nasty things to say about the sentimental sociability of the Angell article, I read the whole thing, but maybe I'll skip them. Predictably sweet and nice to his readers, maybe you get there after 80. But Angell always was a maudlin fool.

Memories of mammaries, maudlin for the madeleine

No lucid dreams, but I have noticed that my deep dreams are more populated with personages from my pre-teens. always judging me. Pisses me the fuck off. Those fucks should get out of my unconscious.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 3:27 PM
horizontal rule
65

To sort of amalgamate two threads, I had a dream about my ex who died, about 6 months after he died. I was so pleased to see him again.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 3:58 PM
horizontal rule
66

I have dreams occasionally about my ex who is very much alive but whom I don't think about much in the normal course of things. They are pretty much my only sex dreams but usually don't reach a conclusion as at some point I remember that I'm not with him anymore so this shouldn't be happening. Then I wake up and think, ah jaysus, I can't even get laid I my dreams.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 4:32 PM
horizontal rule
67

9 They were death notices for emeritus faculty that the university sends out to all the tenured faculty, probably at least a hundred of them

Not just to tenured faculty. And I think it's death notices for any faculty, emeritus or not. I get those things in my mailbox all the time. I've started throwing them out without even reading them, because I figure if anyone I know died I would know.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:23 PM
horizontal rule
68

Also they all say things like "so-and-so died on the 11th instant of March in the year 2013" or whatever, and-- the 11th instant? I think they mean "day"? It's some old-fashioned formal thing I never heard of before.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:25 PM
horizontal rule
69

67: my adviser has collected all of them since he arrived. I'm not recommending you do that, but the fat stack is sort of fascinating.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:27 PM
horizontal rule
70

68 - I thought instant meant "this month", but I've only seen it instead of a month name, not as well as.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:35 PM
horizontal rule
71

(Usually just inst. as opposed to ult. which is "last month".)


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:36 PM
horizontal rule
72

Those death cards are weird.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:39 PM
horizontal rule
73

Is this an Essear U thing or a general university thing? Pretty weird.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:42 PM
horizontal rule
74

Apparently they stopped doing it for a while but restarted in 2000.

Essear you should put one in the Flickr pool.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:43 PM
horizontal rule
75

70: Could be I'm just remembering wrong!

I'll try to remember to post the next one instead of just throwing it out.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:44 PM
horizontal rule
76

68. 70" From searches of "instant of [month]" there do seem to be a handful on the web for any given month. Seems to generally be 19th century or earlier formal documents.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:49 PM
horizontal rule
77

It's a general dept. thing. I bet it was more common in other jobs too back when people stayed at the same job their whole lives.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 5:50 PM
horizontal rule
78

Back before the www, I had to figure out instant & ultimate while going through archives. The style appealed to me. It wasn't just in 19th century documents. Early 20th century ones too. Those documents also helped me see Dear Mr. Smith as an informal salutation.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 6:11 PM
horizontal rule
79

2: "What the dead don't know piles up, though we don't notice it at first."

Another difference. I noticed that instantly. Borders closing, other stores coming in or going out, TV shows she used to watch cancelled, new ones she would have liked coming on, some strange food combo I'd tried just for the hell of it, laundry done without disaster, and so on. For a while everything had the DE as its reference and I'd report these things in the evening as if she were sitting across from me at dinner.

It's not as if I didn't know she was dead, it was a way of not dwelling on how I was going to fill the void or if I were going to bother trying.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 6:38 PM
horizontal rule
80

79: that's a mode of being I can project myself into with ease.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 6:42 PM
horizontal rule
81

Seconding the recommendation for Let Me Finish; would also recommend the first four baseball books (haven't read the others).


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:07 PM
horizontal rule
82

48, 50: I thought I might be the only one who did this, and am glad to hear that it's not entirely morbid to do it. I'm tremendously glad that I have saved voicemails from my mom, 5 years after her death. Handwriting, though, I find particularly affecting.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 7:54 PM
horizontal rule
83

9 years after my father died, I haven't been willing to read the diary/journal he kept in his 30s in the 1950s. Don't know what I'm afraid of, but I am.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-21-14 9:47 PM
horizontal rule
84

I was just thinking that I should advise one of my young friends, now 11, to talk to WWII vets & Holocaust survivors, as when she is my age, they'll be almost as scarce as WWI vets (i.e. none, for all practical purposes) are now. I don't believe I ever spoke at length to a WWI veteran, certainly not about their war experience.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 1:48 AM
horizontal rule
85

62.2 Not all exactly my generation, but I was mentally excluding elderly relatives.

Favourite godfather, when I was about 6. Probably suicide (I was never told), early 30s.
Guy I got close to during long hospital stay, who gave me my first chess set. Leukaemia, 12.
Priest who prepared me for confirmation, took job teaching maths in Botswana. Unspecified tropical disease, mid 30s.
One of the crowd. Motorbike ran out of road, 17.
Major crush (never went anywhere). Car crash, 18.
Best mate from school. Fell off mountain, 19.

Etc. Normal privileged middle class upbringing.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 5:24 AM
horizontal rule
86

84: Kids today will never know the pleasure of assuming that all old white people with accents who piss them off are Nazi officials who escaped justice.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 6:36 AM
horizontal rule
87

I don't believe I ever spoke at length to a WWI veteran, certainly not about their war experience.

I was the kind of boy who drew them out. In the early sixties, when I was your young friends' age, I would hear some of their stories, and the WWI vets were about the age I am now.

Last one I talked to at length was my wife's grandfather, who'd been a German soldier in WWI. Also to a cousin on her mother's side who was too. That would have been in the 80s.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 6:43 AM
horizontal rule
88

I never knowingly spoke to any WWI veterans, though I'm sure some of the elderly people I spoke to as a kid were - the youngest ones would have been almost seventy years older than me.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 6:52 AM
horizontal rule
89

My dad's boss was a WWI veteran, though I don't think he saw combat. I spoke to him many times, because he gave us chocolate when we came to see him. He dressed in robber baron style suits.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 6:57 AM
horizontal rule
90

Re 85

Yeah, ditto.

- Childhood friend and son of one of my Mum's friends, about 20. Suicide (possibly accidental): meths and downers
- Youngest next door neighbour, about 15, butane.*
- School friend, about 14, ditto on butane (or glue)
- School friend, about 15, quad bike
- girlfriend's brother-in-law, late-20s/early 30s, booze/suicide
- my common-law brother-in-law, ditto, ditto.
- cousin (30s) - cancer

Plus quite a few bike deaths (my mates were bikers) but none of whom were close friends.

Surprisingly no deaths from violence, though.

* very common in my area. My mum counted 6 in one year among her friends' kids or those kids' friends.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 6:57 AM
horizontal rule
91

Re: 84

I don't think there are any WW1 vets - the last British one died a couple of years ago, and, iirc, he was one of only two or three left in the world. My grandfather is a WW2 vet and he's 100 next week.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 7:00 AM
horizontal rule
92

Wiki says none:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_last_surviving_World_War_I_veterans_by_country


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 7:01 AM
horizontal rule
93

My maternal grandfather was a WWI vet, and I assume so were most of his contemporaries - there was universal conscription in the UK from 1916. None of them ever talked about it, although I learned (as I think I've mentioned before) that my grandfather saw about 10 days' action at the front before catching a nice little blighty. This was explained to me when, as an older man, he occasionally wasn't up for rigorous exercise because of the ongoing pain.

But none of them talked about it.

My father was a WWII vet, and he carefully selected the stories he told to be funny or peculiar, usually with the joke on himself. He never discussed the bad shit either, nor did any of his cohort.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 7:12 AM
horizontal rule
94

86. No,they're all Russian mob.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 7:22 AM
horizontal rule
95

86 Once while visiting a vineyard in the Mosel there was an elderly German lady from Argentina with her son. As we chatted she mentioned having moved to Argentina in 1945, together with her husband. Maybe I was wrong to assume what I did, but that's what immediately came to mind. My impression was that the winemaker made the assumption - long pause then a quick shift to discussing the wine.

And then we found some really amazing wine, for free, in unlimited quantities.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 7:48 AM
horizontal rule
96

Hm, lots of deaths that I recall
Childhood:
-two great-grands, one with whom I spent lots of time
Adolescence:
-three grands, all of whom I was around frequently
-an aunt, less so
-a close friend drowned in the river in my home town; he was river surfing
-a casual friend drowned in the river in my home town; he was drinking
-a family friend around my age died in a single car accident; he appears to have swerved to avoid a deer
-a good friend from boy scouts in a still unexplained car accident
Adulthood:
-a very close friend died surfing in the ocean; he just wasn't up to the conditions, got knocked down by waves and couldn't get out of the surf zone


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 8:11 AM
horizontal rule
97

I'm not going to list them all but just off the top of my head I counted over thirty of more than casual acquaintance, leaving off the dead car-loads of my kids' friends in DUIs and distant relatives and profs I knew of but didn't know.

Angell is right, they pile up rapidly as one gets old. Then it slows down, because, as my mother said at 90, there's no one left from her youth but her.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 8:51 AM
horizontal rule
98

83. The NY Times has been running some pieces this week by a woman who is going through the possessions of deceased parents. (I thought of biohazard and others while reading them.) The current one is about reading diaries.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 9:19 AM
horizontal rule
99

83: & 98: We found lots of letters to and from my father when my (step)mother died, and one interesting set of Mexican divorce papers. It turns out she had been married during WW2 to a sailor who shortly thereafter vanished somewhere, and she finally went to Mexico, got the divorce, and then married my father in '46. I found a few people with the sailor's name on the internet but nothing that pointed to her, and he'd have to be really, really old by now so I dropped it.

(The letters weren't all that interesting, just daily stuff related back and forth during his travels for his work. "I mowed the lawn" - stuff like that.)

I'm still sorting, keeping, giving away, and tossing the DE's stuff. She was, it turns out, a well-organized sentimental hoarder of the sanitary variety. I've found photos, teddy bears, letters, and SF fandom artifacts but thankfully no old unfinished dinners or ancient birthday cakes. Old crumbling magazines and books are also getting tossed no matter which one of us brought them in here.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 10:32 AM
horizontal rule
100

83: Don't know what I'm afraid of, but I am.

Afraid of crying, or of becoming emotionally overwhelmed? Or -- since the diary/journal was kept in your father's 30s, in the 1950s, when you were presumably too young to have had any idea of his circumstances -- of reading something surprising that would challenge your view of him?

I'm coming back to this, even though this thread is dead, because I'd talk for a bit about the extent to which our society does not like to give us space to grieve, to be emotionally overwhelmed, to cry for a good while or just be speechless ... and to give us space and time to do that without frowning upon the whole matter.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 12:39 PM
horizontal rule
101

100: IMX, no one likes being around a continuous downer, Parsi, not even the downer himself. I don't give an nanofuck for what "society" likes but it didn't take long to get impatient with my own immersion in the grief pool. Then the issue became how to get out and past it. I'm still working on bits and pieces of that.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 1:14 PM
horizontal rule
102

By way of explanation, further to 100:

When my mom died, I went up to New England three times, first for 6 days for her funeral services and a first pass at getting the house and financial affairs in order and meet with the whole family. Then for 3 days to do official legal stuff. Lastly for a full 10 days to go through her house entirely, in the company of my brother and my housemate, who is a trooper and a very good friend.

These visits were over the course of about 6 months, and: my work partner was pissed, angry that I was taking so much time off. Seriously? ("My mom just died," I would say. "I need time to address that," I flatly stated. "Let me know how well you do when your mom dies," I'd say while trying to control my anger. "It's not like I'm have a leisurely vacation here.") At one point he phoned to say that he wanted to drop one of our advertising venues -- which would have reduced our income by a goodly sum of money -- because they had annoyed him. I told him that was a stupid decision, and that this was a really bad time for him to propose reducing income, because my mother's funeral was yesterday, so shut up.

My impression is that we are, collectively, supposed to pretend that we aren't grievously affected by the deaths of those close to us; and that our social and economic structures are as inappropriate to actual human needs in the realm of death as they are to, say, our needs regarding childcare.

I would blame capitalism, but I think this sort of la-la-la-that isn't happening mindset migrates far beyond. Is it a fear of feeling too much?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 1:24 PM
horizontal rule
103

no one likes being around a continuous downer, Parsi, not even the downer himself.

I don't know what to make of this. It's certainly true that we all have to move on, but I don't think I was suggesting otherwise. I was talking about the pressure not to take a bit of time to cry at all, to be afraid of doing that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 1:35 PM
horizontal rule
104

I was talking about the pressure not to take a bit of time to cry at all, to be afraid of doing that.

I've come across this stated one way or another very often in my reading about death and people's experiences with grief so I will not discount it at all. For myself, all I can say is I didn't notice others being impatient so much as I noticed myself becoming a bore on the subject. For sure death in all its aspects makes Americans go into serious denial tho' that's changing slowly now that the Boomers are beginning to keel over.


Posted by: biohazard | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 1:48 PM
horizontal rule
105

Comity.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 1:59 PM
horizontal rule
106

re: 93.last

Yeah. My maternal grandfather [the one who is 100 next week] doesn't talk a huge amount about the war, but not, I think because of any particular combat experience. He was an aircraft mechanic, and spent a while running barrage balloons, I think, too. I think the closest he came to serious face to face action [other than being bombed] was in Palestine, versus the Irgun, rather than Germans.

My paternal grandfather, on the other hand, was a career soldier, from the 1920s on, so his WW2 experience was very much at the sharp end, as a non-com leading a group of Sikhs through North Africa and Italy. He had lots of stories but they were almost all of comic moments or daft things he saw, rather than anything to do with combat. And most of his stories were of pre-war India.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 2:08 PM
horizontal rule
107

My father had the least interesting war of his brothers. His father was killed in a construction accident during the war, his younger brother was injured and got so sick-- he never really recovered although he lived another 45 years--in the fighting for the Scheldt banks and his youngest, a celebrated combat leader, was killed there. Typical for Canadians, although both managed to avoid Dieppe.

My dad's stories were what might be called wartime vignettes: descriptions of the culture shock and wider world he witnessed.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-22-14 10:05 PM
horizontal rule
108

Speaking of WWII veterans, NMM2 the Trapp Family Singers.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-23-14 4:29 AM
horizontal rule
109

Dad was base boxing champ somewhere in the Pacific, which meant his company got to skip next campaign but go point in New Guinea, then Marshalls. His brother was tank corps in North Africa under Rommel Patton somebody. Another uncle was turret gunner out of Sicily? Could have know Yossarian Heller. Had an grandfather's nephew make Colonel as chaplain in Europe. Zero stories. They all died under 60.

A good chunk of my early 70s drug buddies were Vietnam vets. I might have known 20-30. Lots of stories, but not about combat. Mostly drugs whores and fragging*.

Wiki:230 documented, 1400 unexplained deaths


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-14 11:17 AM
horizontal rule
110

Can't let go of this:

Rowing in Eden (in Emily Dickinson's words: "Rowing in Eden-- / Ah--the sea") isn't reserved for the lithe and young, the dating or the hooked-up or the just lavishly married, or even for couples in the middle-aged mixed-doubles semifinals, thank God. No personal confession or revelation impends here, but these feelings in old folks are widely treated like a raunchy secret. The invisibility factor--you've had your turn--is back at it again. But I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach. Those of us who have lost that, whatever our age, never lose the longing: just look at our faces. If it returns, we seize upon it avidly, stunned and altered again.

To the young(er), desire among the old appears to be obscene. But why? Angell tells this on himself, on his younger self, that he was astonished to think that older people still did it.

Why does this keep recurring, does every generation start with the idea that, if they didn't invent sex, it properly belongs to them alone? Is there something adaptive, socially useful here?


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-26-14 9:16 PM
horizontal rule