Tuesday, May 09, 2017

archetropal spring day to never forget

Beautiful day—and short line at the grocery checkout. Lucky me. The only thing ahead on the conveyor belt was a huge bottle of vodka (half gallon!)—which seemed odd, but none of my business. Someone’s pretty stupid about alcohol, I might have thought (if I’d given it my attention).

I put my stuff on behind the bottle. A short old man in front of me was bubbly, talking with a middle-aged woman who was enjoying him immensely, also helping him pay with his plastic card. I was in no hurry, but didn’t really notice them (but recall in retrospect—before I forget).

“I’m 95!,” he heralded to her, which she cheerfully praised. This caused me to turn toward him. He didn’t look 95. So, I joked. “You’re not 95!” He turned to me, looking surprised through his thick lens, bubbly as, say, a 70 year-old.

I said, “You don’t look 95.” Grinning, seeming flattered, he finished his purchase.

The woman hugged him, said it’s always great to see him, and left.

He was slow putting his huge bottle of vodka in his bag while I began loading my own bags, and the checkout guy continued faster than I could load. I was almost shoulder to shoulder with the old man. He finished bagging his bottle. He looked at me a little incredulously. “You want to see my driver’s license?”

So, I said, “I’m joking. I hope I look as good as you when I’m 95,” presuming I make it.

Look,” he said, raising his bare arm and pushing it against my chest.

A tatooed number on was on his forearm.

I meakly gasped. “That’s an Auschwitz number,” I said—though who knows what camp a number came from.

Yes, Auschwitz,” he said.

I immediately patted him hard on the shoulder, as if I was congratulating an old friend for something.

I thought—though, thank goodness I didn’t say this—“Did you see Harold and Maude?,” as he cheerfully waddled out the store, no cane, quite adept.

Ruth Gordon, who played Maude in the movie, was the same old girl on talk shows that she was with “Harold.” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see the movie, despite its outdated 1970 cultural context. See it, if you haven’t.)

Yes, my deep Self was congratulating him, I realized, for living to be so happily old.

Yes, drink that vodka—though surely he couldn’t have been drinking much over the years, to have lived so long.

Drink to your Russian ancestors who were driven out of Russia into Eastern Europe during an era that couldn't economically assimilate masses of immigrants. Drink to the demise of xenophobic dictators.

Drink in honor of making a life good and happy—not as hallmarked by suffering, but as undaunted life devoted to thriving.

Let there be the happiest passing away into this fine century.

They say “Never forget” (as well as “Never again!”). But the point is about potential that’s intrinsic to being alive.

Being alive!