To grow old is to lose everything. Aging, everybody knows it. Even when we are young, we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads when a grandfather dies. Then we row for years on the midsummer pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage, that began without harm, scatters into debris on the shore, and a friend from school drops cold on a rocky strand. If a new love carries us past middle age, our wife will die at her strongest and most beautiful. New women come and go. All go. The pretty lover who announces that she is temporary is temporary. The bold woman, middle-aged against our old age, sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand. Another friend of decades estranges himself in words that pollute thirty years. Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge and affirm that it is fitting and delicious to lose everything.
Donald Hall - 1928-2018
1 "Up, down, good, bad," said the man with the tubes up his nose, " there's lots of variety… However, notions of balance between extremes of fortune are stupid—or at best unobservant." He watched as the nurse fed pellets into the green nozzle that stuck from his side. "Mm," said the man. " Good. Yum. (Next time more basil…) When a long-desired baby is born, what joy! More happiness than we find in sex, more than we take in success, revenge, or wealth. But should the same infant die, would you measure the horror on the same rule? Grief weighs down the seesaw; joy cannot budge it." 2 "When I was nineteen, I told a thirty- year-old man what a fool I had been when I was seventeen. 'We were always,' he said glancing down, 'a fool two years ago.'" 3 The man with the tubes up his nostrils spoke carefully: "I don't regret what I did, but that I claimed I did the opposite. If I was faithless or treacherous and cowardly, I had my reasons—but I regret that I called myself loyal, brave, and honorable." 4 "Of all illusions," said the man with the tubes up his nostrils, IVs, catheter, and feeding nozzle, "the silliest one was hardest to lose. For years I supposed that after climbing exhaustedly up with pitons and ropes, I would arrive at last on the plateau of walking-level- forever-among- moss-with-red-blossoms. But of course, of course: A continual climbing is the one form of arrival we ever come to— unless we suppose that the wished-for height and house of desire is tubes up the nose."