Yesterday, I was feeling old. I shouldn't be. When you have in-laws who are in their 90s – and still cooking meals from scratch (her), talking about a game on TV and understanding every play (him), and doing their own laundry (together) – well, you have built-in reminders about the idea of "old."
And then there's Alice.
Last year, I was working with Alice, a writer on the West Coast, who was 83 years old at the time. She was producing new chapters of her very funny memoir, and I was offering feedback and edits as fast as she could send me her perfectly formatted pages.
There was always an urgency about her, both in her writing, and the way she was attacking her writing life – full ahead, after decades of doing other things. I always hoped some of her energy and momentum might rub off. Besides the memoir, we worked on an essay she eventually read on her local public radio station. And poems she sent off to a contest (she was awarded an honorable mention).
One day, Alice mentioned, in a causal off-handed way, that she wouldn't be back in touch for a week because she was scheduled for a "minor outpatient procedure." Then – silence. For two weeks. Three. I wrote and rewrote an email, deliberating whether to send it or not, storing it in drafts. I picked up the phone twice, put it back both times.
I didn't want to know, I suppose.
Finally one morning while sipping coffee, computer screen open, I saw something from her email address. Subject line: Alice
It began, "Hi, this is Alice's son. I thought you should know –
I looked away from the screen, then back.
...that she's had a little setback, but she asked me to send you the attached chapter…"
I prepared comments on Alice's pages, sent them back, and the next week, she was writing me back to ask about a tense shift on page 6.
Yesterday, I thought of Alice. It helped. I felt younger. Or maybe older, but in a good way. And in a big hurry. Full ahead.