Saturday, January 30, 2016

Writing My Story: A Sort of Introduction

 By Diana C. White

Writing my story started getting to be a serious assignment after certain visits to my children in 2011, who said, meaningfully, “Mama, you know you need to do this. When are you going to start?”
They had been sent copies of Uncle Bob’s 100th Birthday gift to his family and friends.

Uncle Bob is my mother's youngest brother, and the last of that sibship; he made it to 104 and a bit past the birthday, and had begun to decline in physical strength sometime within the years past 100. He stayed sharp until the last few months. He told me on Labor Day weekend 2014, when he really could not make it to the Family Reunion but was very much up for visits and family time in small doses, “Diana, honey, my forgetery works overtime and my remembery sometimes doesn't work well at all.” And indeed, he did tell you some things twice in the same conversation, but old memories and stories were clear and true. Until the last visit in 2015, again on a Labor Day/Capps Reunion weekend,
when he was getting noticeably frailer and less present, he had always been the most alive and "up­ for­ it" visit in my family list.

After retirement from Buick, Uncle Bob and Muriel had bought a home in the country, in the southern  part of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, not far from the South Carolina border, near my cousins Bob and Mattie – and not that far from the old home
place where Uncle Bob had grown up. For years their home on Watermelon Lane was the gathering place for birthdays (Oh, the Cappses loved birthdays!) and get-­togethers, and Bob and Muriel always hosted the Labor Day weekend family reunions until Bob and Mattie were asked to take it on in their turn. A few years further on, sometime in the early 2000s, Bob and Muriel moved into a retirement home, The Laurels, in Pineville, NC,
where they lived for their last several years.

Muriel died in 2008. Uncle Bob continued, going strong. And he was a story­teller!  As he began to show a little more physical decline, having passed his 104th, we planned for a visit as though it were a regular Capps Labor Day reunion, pretending that it was an ordinary visit.  Indeed he died a very few weeks later, on September 21, 2015.

So Ivan and I went to Charlotte and stayed with Bob and Mattie for the annual Capps Get­-Together and Picnic and general hoo­hah on Labor Day weekend 2015. Chiefly, I went to get
in what I thought might be my last visit with Uncle Bob. Mattie and I kept in touch, and Sue had been in touch often over the summer. We all knew, even Uncle Bob could not go on forever. And
my last visit with Uncle Bob, we had a wonderful time! But then, we always did.

I knew to go early in the day; the common name is Sundowners' Syndrome, meaning the later in the day, the more likely you are to encounter confusion and a bit of cognitive slippage, so
get visits in early in the day. I went mid­morning and had a good walk down the memories, well- companioned, remembering old days. He kept telling me how proud they all were of my good
brain and how I'd used it! We had a fun time, swapping stories. It has never taken much, I just lean forward and say something like, “Uncle Bob, you remember that time my mother wore
her new dress, and in spite of Grand Mamma's reminders, jumped off the tractor and it caught and tore it hem to collar?" And we'd be off. Cappses are all good story­tellers. I'd get three stories and
eight names and backgrounds for every memory I touched on! I'm so grateful to have had that last good visit.

I grew up listening to stories, first, my Mama's when I was a child; our favorite afternoon quiet time was to ask Mama to tell us about when she was a little girl in the country, and off she'd go! So I got used to priming my elders, and sitting back and
reveling in their stories.

My children evidently considered that as an elderly person in the Capps lineage, I had an obligation to contribute to the ongoing  story, and to write it down like Uncle Bob did.


(This is the first of  several posts from Diana C. White's "Family History" in progress. This project of hers is something I believe we ALL ought to be doing.  How wonderful it would be if our parents and grandparents had done it!  Of course, life was a lot harder back then.  And the reason most of us aren't doing it is because.......uh, because....well, there's TV, Golf, Bingo, Cards, Golf, ...........important stuff like that.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

No Big Deal

Blizzard, Smizzard.

"What do you mean?

I'm talking about a serious event. Snow up to your knees!"

Ha!  I laugh in your face! Big deal.  I've been through it all before. I'm used to that kind of thing....because of where I grew up. 



Minot North Dakota?


 Charlotte, North Carolina!

Aw, come on....they don't have blizzards in towns like Charlotte.  That's in the South, man.  You're nutty as a fruit cake.

Don't mention that word to me!  But that's another story.  What I'm saying is that I can prove that we had at least one snow storm in Charlotte that came up to my knees. And I can prove it!

All right, you're on. 

OK.  The date was the same as this year's blizzard, January 24th.  

The year was 1940.

I rest my case.

Now, about that fruit cake.  Stay tuned.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Internet Gem from Bob Ellis


Diamond D's brothel began construction on an expansion of their building to increase their ever-growing business. In response, the local Baptist Church across the street started a campaign to block the business from expanding -- with morning, afternoon, and evening prayer sessions at their church. Work on Diamond D's progressed right up until the week before the grand reopening when lightning struck the whorehouse and burned it to the ground!

After the cat-house was burned to the ground by the lightning strike, the church folks were rather smug in their outlook, bragging about "the power of prayer."
But late last week 'Big Jugs' Jill Diamond, the owner/madam, sued the church, the preacher and the entire congregation on the grounds that the church ... "was ultimately responsible for the demise of her building and her business -- either through direct or indirect divine actions or means."
In its reply to the court, the church vehemently and voraciously denied any and all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise.
The crusty old judge read through the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's reply, and at the opening hearing he commented, "I don't know how  I'm going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork, that we now have a whorehouse owner who staunchly believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that thinks it's all bull!"

Thanks Bob.


Colbie or Juno?

Neighbors's tarp covered cars

It's the BLIZZARD of  2016.

Nobody ever named winter storms...until a couple of years ago, and even then nothing was offical.

It still isn't.

I understand the WEATHER CHANNEL is calling this storm JUNO......but that's just to make you think they are snarter than everybody else. I don't know if they are aware of the fact that a bunch of high school students in the midwest "declared" that to be the official name of the storm that just hit us here in the East.

Those kid's second choice of names was Colbie,..named after some rock singer.

If it had been up to the Central High kids of 1954....We would have named it "Salamander."
My car (just behind the bush)

We received almost 2 feet...maybe our house in Falls Church, VA.

A Blizzard by any other know.


PS.....Send me some pics showing what it was like around your house.  I heard it was bad in the Charlotte area too!

Friday, January 22, 2016


At this hour, 11:15 or so on Friday January 12, 2016, the prediction is for a winter storm to hit the Washington, DC area AND  Charlotte, NC that will be as bad as "Snowmegeddon," the one that blasted us in 2010.

We'll know soon enough.  However, we won't know its name til well AFTER it's over.

But lots of folks are speculating about what it will be.

I think the final choice of names will be determined on how fierce it turns out to be.

If it is about like the 2010 one, I think most people will settle on something like....."Snowzilla."

However, if it turns out to be a Monster Blizzard....that totally destroys Washington and Charlotte and everything else in its path......

there is no doubt in my mind that it will forever be known as.....



(I wish I had thought of this myself, but I didn't.  I heard it on the radio this morning.
Hats off to WMAL.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Warren Sparrow's Weakly Reader

                   The Weakly Reader

Vol. II, No. 1                   Winston-Salem, North Carolina                  17 January 2016

By Warren Sparrow

Welcome to the First Edition of Volume II of The Weakly Reader, a publication dedicated to the enjoyment of all souls who spend too much time looking in their rear-view mirrors.  It is the mission of this publication to encourage its readers to keep their eyes on the
road ahead and have a good time doing it.   Today’s issue features a snapshot of a life well-lived

But, first we want to tell you about some news of the future and then a little about the present. Our future news is from the plains of Kansas where our granddaughter Melanie lives with her husband Kyle Krier.  They informed us during the holidays that they were expecting a baby.  It will be our first great-grandchild.

Our present news is not news at all.  We soldier on, our days dominated by TV shows and books.  Here is a representative sample of our TV favorites:  PBS mainstays, i.e. Doc Martin
and Midsomer Murders.  We are not as excited about Downton Abbey as we once were.  As far as books are concerned, our current project is Big Red:  Three Months On Board A Trident
Nuclear Submarine by Douglas C. Waller, HarperCollins 2001.

Now, with all due respect to Captain Marvel, I zoom past the Rock of Eternity and find myself stuck more than 10 years ago in the shoes of a street lawyer.

For forty years I wandered across our state’s judicial wasteland, hacking at every windmill in sight.  Had it not been for my wife Becky’s support, I would have abandoned hope long ago.  What a shame that would have been.  I would have missed what happened yesterday in the basement of the Forsyth County Hall of Justice.  Listen to this….

At 9 a.m. District criminal court was packed.  The regular docket was 190, maybe more. There seemed to be an unusually large number of deputies and police waiting for cases.  Being a
good soldier I was in court when Prosecutor Bob Brown, an Oklahoma alum, gave his opening speech and called the docket.

Judge Denise Hartsfield took her place at 10 a.m., putting on her black robe as the bailiff opened court.  She wanted us to see her new dress, which was a spectacular one.  The “fun”began when she announced that she would hear bond forfeiture cases before she would take up the regularly scheduled cases.

At that point I knew my 4:30 p.m. tennis time was in trouble.  It took the judge 30 minutes to get through the bond-forfeiture docket.  My mind spun:  It was after 10 a.m. and there were still 190 items to go.  Throw in a 90-minute lunch break and my afternoon tennis plan was in serious peril.  To make matters worse, my client wanted to fight the charge.  In real life, that meant we would be among the last of the day’s cases.


Corn Doggedness

My client was charged with selling a corn dog at Cook’s Flea Market, taking it from its wrapper and placing it in a microwave without having a permit to do so.  This is a serious crime,
according to the health department.

It is OK to sell a pre-packaged corn dog without a permit but it cannot be opened and microwaved before it is handed to a customer.  For the transaction to be legal, the customer must
open the package and place the corn dog in the microwave.

Bewildered, I pressed ahead like Don Quixote against another windmill.  Two health-department inspectors were there along with two supervisors.  Obviously, this was a big windmill.  We waited our turn, suffering through a series of “motions to continue” cases to a later date and a few guilty pleas.  Then came the 90-minute lunch break.  “Be back at 2,” we were told.

The health-department inspectors had prepared a report for the prosecutor who let me read it during the lunch break.  Upon reading the report I was convinced that my client was in big trouble.  She is 60 and has a clean record.  I could not imagine why the health department would go to so much trouble over so little except for the fact that the inspectors had tried to get voluntary compliance and my client refused to follow their rule.  I thought what my client did was like jaywalking.  Nobody gets charged with jaywalking. Who the hell cares if somebody takes a corn dog out of a wrapper at a flea market?  Forget what I thought, let us get back to our

 Not long after the lunch break, the prosecutor called our case.  The first inspector testified that on two occasions he saw my client take corn dogs out of wrappers and put them in the microwave and hand them to customers.  In my skillful cross examination I was able to illicit two violation reports that had been signed by my client.  What an excellent job I did to help the state’s case.  Prosecutor Brown was gleeful.  Confident of victory, he introduced the reports and rested his case.

With considerable egg of my face, I called my client to the stand.  She said she had not sold corn dogs either time.  She said there were others who sold corn dogs at the flea market.
Those folks wanted her out of the flea market, one where she had sold things for 26 years.  She also said that the second incident involved an inspector who was seated behind the prosecutor
but had not testified.  She said the inspector confronted her with a corn dog on a plate, saying a“lady” had bought it from her, etc.  My client denied any suggestion of wrong-doing.

At this point my client testified that the inspector told her it was his girlfriend who bought the corn dog.  My client insisted she did not sell the corn dog.  The prosecutor’s cross examination was perfunctory.  I am sure he was convinced that my client was not being truthful.

That was the way I saw it, too.


Ignoring the egg as it clung to my face, I called a witness (witless?) who was a friend of my client.  She said she did not see my client do anything wrong.  I rested after introducing some photographs of my client’s set-up.  Judge Hartsfield encouraged Prosecutor Brown to call a rebuttal witness, the other inspector.  The inspector took the stand and much to my surprise described the “girlfriend” incident.  He said it really was his girlfriend who bought the corn dog with two dollars he had given her.  Of course, she was not in court.  Prosecutor Brown rested.

The judge looked at me and said, “I’ll hear you.”  I was gripped with fear.  The egg on my face had turned to concrete.  I had no idea of what to say.  I muttered something goofy about
reasonable doubt.  Brown took his best shot, saying the most troublesome part of the case was that someone was lying.  The clear inference was the liar was my client.

For reasons known only to God, the judge said my client could go, that she was letting her off on a “technicality” and she should follow the rules.  As we left the courtroom my client said, “I told you, the Lord looks after those who are not guilty.”  Indeed.  And, the Lord created windmills just for me.


Joyfully I made in on time to my tennis match.  However, my euphoria was dampened when early in the match it became obvious that my bird legs were not up for rigorous exercise.  I won the first set, 6-3 and lost the second, 3-6.  To determine a winner we played a tiebreaker:
First to win 7 points and be ahead by 2 is the winner of the match.  I was humiliated, 7-4.  My humiliation peaked when I was ahead, 4-1¸ but missed an overhead which would have made it 5-1.  Totally discouraged, I did not win another point.  

In this moment of despair I took heart:  There are many windmills remaining to be defeated.

Let me at them! 

                                                           *     *     *

 We hope you have enjoyed today’s program and we urge you to support our sponsors, Ralston Purina and Oxydol.  Without their support and the support of readers “like you,” publication of The Weakly Reader would not be possible.  We close today’s edition with a poem by William James “Billy” Collins who was born in March 1941 and was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003:

                                              On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel 
like I'm coming down with something, 
something worse than any stomach ache 
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light-- 
a kind of measles of the spirit, 
a mumps of the psyche, 
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul. 

You tell me it is too early to be looking back, 
but that is because you have forgotten 
the perfect simplicity of being one 
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two. 

But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit. 
At four I was an Arabian wizard. 
I could make myself invisible 
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.

At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window 
watching the late afternoon light. 
Back then it never fell so solemnly 
against the side of my tree house, 
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage 
as it does today, all the dark blue speed drained out of it. 

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself, 
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers. 
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends, 
time to turn the first big number. 

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light. 
If you cut me I could shine. 
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life, 
I skin my knees. I bleed.

That is all for today.  We wish you a joyous 2016.

- Warren Sparrow

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January LDL

Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 11:30 AM
at "Jimmies" Restaurant in Mint Hill.
We're sending you this personal invitation to join in.  We'd like to see you.  Help us spread the word! Invite other classmates to come! Even better, bring someone with you! Just be sure YOU, come!

-Jerry G.

Monday, January 11, 2016

O Tanenbaum, O Tanenbaum

By Obie Oakley

We have a Thanksgiving tradition that is right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
The Friday after Turkey Day, the family piles into our SUV’s and drives about 8 miles to
pick up our Christmas trees.  (OK, well maybe Norman didn’t have SUV’s in his paintings.)

     Mike Dendy, who has done stone and rock work for us for about 25 years has a
small tree farm that he and his “Daddy” grow on a hillside surrounding his double-wide.
Since about the only place he sells his trees is at the flea market down in Franklin, we
always call ahead so he knows we are coming.  We get three trees, one for Heather who
takes theirs back to Charleston, Sara sets hers up in Charlotte and we have ours for here
in Highlands plus assorted wreaths and greenery.  Total cost, $100.

A part of the ritual is to let the boys help in picking out the trees with Mike
leading them around to get that perfect one.  This year, Mike had already cut on for
Frances and me so we just walked around giving others our experienced advice.  Too
skinny, not filled in at the base, not a good top to put the star etc etc.  We then haul them
down to where he has the baler set up and runs them through for the trip(s) home.

It is always a family affair; Mike’s Mamma who does the wreaths, was on hand
but this year, we missed his Daddy.  He had lost his battle with cancer back in the
summer but we could look across to the next hillside and see the little church cemetery
where Mike pointed out they had placed the “purrdiest” white cross marker on his grave.

Fast forward to this weekend when the Oakley’s were going to trim their tree.  As
it turned out, trim was the opperative word!
First of all, we haul all the Christmas stuff down from the attic and can’t find the
stand.  We remembered we had taken it to Charlotte where we had set up our Christmas
for the last two years.  No problemo, just go into Reeves and buy another one just like it.

The tree had been standing in a bucket of water for freshness for those two
weeks in the garage.  I cut the strings off and prepared to carry it across the parking area
to the house.  I say prepared because I couldn’t lift the thing.  It was taller than we
usually get, a little over 8 feet, but the living room can handle that since the ceiling peaks
at about 13 feet.  It also had the perfect shape and was totally filled in.  No holes in this
one which contributed to make it a very heavy tree.  Again, no problemo, Frances and I
managed to get it in to the living room and began putting it on the stand.

As we always do, I was going to lift it and Frances was going to put the stand in
place and tighten the adjusting screws to hold it vertical.  For some reason, this proved
to be very difficult and the more we worked at it the harder it became until finally, after
using every expletive in her vocabulary, she suggested we take it up on the hill and toss
it on our “burn pile”.  With cooler heads prevailing, we gave up on trying to get it in
place, and decided the thing to do was to make it lighter by cutting off some of the
bottom. “ Trimming the tree so to speak”.  Once again, no problemo, I got my chain saw
down and trimmed the tree.  (When’s the last time you used your chain saw in your
living room?)

We are now ready to put the thing in the newly purchased stand only this time it

was a problemo, in wrestling with trying to get it in place, we had bent one of the legs of
the stand.  Putting it in my vice, the leg now conformed to the other three and voila,
We now have the “purrdiest” 6 ½ foot Christmas tree in all of Highlands, NC!

The Oakley Tree

Sunday, January 10, 2016


(Photo from the Internet)

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Accidental Cats

Since moving into our home here in Falls Church, VA in 1969, not a year has gone by that we didn't have at least one cat living with us. None of them on purpose.

For a few weeks one time, we had eight!
Fortunately, I was able to find good homes for 7 of them, and only kept the Mama cat.

Other than that one "blessed event," all of our cats have been ones that just came out of the woods in back of our house and adopted us. All but two, were black, with a small white patch of fur around the neck area. I thought that a bit unusual, but perhaps not. Maybe that's the most common combination of colors for alley cats in this part of the country.

Common, was certainly the word that described our cats.

All but one, that is. My youngest son, David spotted him coming out of the woods one day, but couldn't get close to him.  He was just a kitten, but would not let a human near him. For a week or so, David would place food in the yard, and gradually the cat warmed up to him. A couple of weeks later, David coaxed him into our basement...and eventually Jessie became a member of our household.

(David named him "Jessie," after Jessie Jackson because as he explained, our new cat was black...and talked all the time.) It was true, he did "meow" around the house more than any other cat we had ever had. He wasn't in any pain or anything, he just liked to "talk."  We were obviously the first humans he had ever known, so perhaps he thought that was what he was supposed to do.

Bottom line is, Jessie was the most frustrating, demanding, contrary, ....and loveable cat we ever "owned"...or, perhaps more realistically, ever  owned us. In spite of the fact that David had a dream one night that "Jessie had a son,named Larry, who had come to live with us," Linda and I had both agreed that Jessie was going to be our "LAST CAT."

"Larry" became a buzzword in our family.  We often articulated such things as, "we sure hope Larry doesn't show up today" and "...on top of all this all we need is for Larry to appear at our door."  

Jesse passed away at age 16, and as sad as we were loading that empty "cat carrier" back into our car, we were both relieved, in spite of our sadness, that we would no longer have to keep the furniture covered to protect from claw marks and include veteranarian appointments and bills along with our own Doctor appointments, etc....

As we started to pull into our driveway..... lo and behold, like a Biblical vision, sittng beside our mailbox was....Jessie!

No, that was impossible.  Jessie was deceased.  And I don't believe in ghosts......but the cat sitting beside the mailbox...obviously waiting for us....could have been his twin. a white spot on his neck.....feeling right at home.

Almost in perfect unison, Lnda and I both exclaimed, "IT'S LARRY!"

It was.

Larry passed away last night, 12 years after we first met him that day at our mailbox.


Thursday, January 07, 2016

Jackie Hart Lookabill Breaks Arm

Received this note from Jackie and Gene Lookabill's daughter LaGena:

Hello Central Friends

Please pray for my mother, Jackie Lookabill. She fell getting on the shuttle bus that was going to take us to the Biltmore house for the candle light tour. She broke her left arm just above the elbow and will have a very serious, long, and complicated surgery on Thursday am at Mercy Hospital on January 7th. We would so appreciate your prayers for my sweet little mommy. 

With Gratitude,
LaGena Lookabill Greene.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Pieces of my Mind

The pieces I'm talkng about are those tiny bits of memory that float around in our brains that don't have a beginning or end like what most consider "memories;"  they're just tiny little things that never seem to go away.

In my case, there's one that goes back to the time I tried wearing a "man's hat" for the first time and my girlfriend said, "You look like a little boy playing man."

And  then there's the one about how "grown up" I felt in the 5th grade when my Mom bought me my first pair of "Knickers."

And another about how badly I botched the very first words I ever uttered on the radio at WGIV.....when trying to introduce....."the sentimental gentleman of swing"......Tommy Dorsy.

Lots of stuff like that floating around up there in my encephalon's grey matter.         

Mostly meaningless memory flakes.

But two are more disturbing, but not surprising. During my long broadcast career, I spent a fair amount of time up on "Capitol Hill" here in Washington, where, to borrow from the song, is "a big town, where I heard me some big talk."

One was a conversation I heard between a seasoned Senator and his staffer in the hall just before he entered the chamber to vote "in favor of funding" for a particular bill.   "Is the total, millions.....or billions?" I forget which the staffer said it was. It obviously didn't matter to the Senator either; he was going to vote for it.

The other "overheard conversation" that still swirls around in my brain is the one between two members of the "black caucus" who were bragging about, "It doesn't matter how much it costs. We can spend as much money as we want to."

Take my word, the mockngbird'll sing

the saddest kind o' song
and he knows things are wrong
and he's RIGHT. 
A worrsome thing that'll leave you to sing
The Blues in the Night.

  (Song-Blues in the Night- author Johnny Mercer)


Monday, January 04, 2016

Richard Stowe Passes (NOTE TIME CORRECTION)

By Jerry Gaudet

Richaard Stowe 1954

It is with sadness that we learn of the passing of classmate Richard Stowe.  His longtime friend, Janice McRorie, indicates Richard entered the hospital early December and was being treated for kidney, heart and diabetes-related problems, passing away on January 3, 2016.

Richard M. Stowe, Sr. April 18, 1935 - January 4, 2016

Mr. Richard M. Stowe, 80, of Charlotte, NC passed away early Monday morning, the 4th of January 2016 at Novant Health Presbyterian Charlotte.

He was born on Thursday, the 18th of April 1935 in Charlotte, NC, one of four children to Arthur Lee King and Nell Janet Stowe. Mr. Stowe served in the Naval Reserves and in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He was a Mason and served on the Board of Camp Care.

He owned and operated Quality Fasteners, which is still a family owned business. The Stowe family will greet friends from 1:00 PM until 2:00 PMThursday, the 7th of January 2016 at Ellington Funeral Services. A service to celebrate his life will follow at 2:00 PM in The Historic Morehead Street Chapel with The Reverend Dr. Stanford Fields officiating. Burial will follow in the Stowe family plot in the Historic Elmwood Cemetery, uptown Charlotte.

Mr. Stowe is survived by his four children: Kerry L. Stowe and his wife, Sylvia; Richard M. Stowe, Jr.; Marie Stowe Hale and David Stowe and wife, Monica and a special friend, Janice McRorie; four grandchildren: Keely Hale, Matthew Stowe, Corrina Stowe and Lucy Stowe. In addition to his parents he was preceded in death by a sister, Peggy Proctor; brother, Howard Stowe; infant brother, Raymond; son-in-law, Steve Hale and two infant grandchildren.

Memorials may be made in remembrance of Richard M. Stowe to St. Jude Children's Research, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or First Baptist Church of Little River, 4361 Oak St., Little River, SC 29566.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Departure Lounge

By Penelope Lively

Penelope Lively
 You may not yearn for a Caribbean cruise – I don't – but certain comforts have become essential, the accustomed perks that make daily existence a bit more than just that. I can't start the day without a bowl of the right kind of muesli topped with some fruit and sheep's milk yoghurt; I can't end it without a glass (or two) of wine. I need the diversions of radio and television. I want flowers in the house and something tempting to eat – these are greeds, I think, rather than needs. 

And – high priority – there is reading, the daily fix, the time of immersion in whatever is top of my book pile right now. As demands, requirements, all of this is relatively modest. Much of it – the reading, the flowers – goes back to prelapsarian days before old age. The difference, though, is that then there were further needs and greeds, and those seem to have melted away, to have tactfully absented themselves as though to make things a bit easier because they would indeed be an encumbrance now.

Out with acquisition, excitement, and aspiration except in tempered mode. And, on another front, I don't in the least lament certain emotions. I can remember falling in love, being in love; life would have been incomplete without that particular exaltation, but I wouldn't want to go back there. I still love – there is a swath of people whom I love – but I am glad indeed to be done with that consuming, tormenting form of the emotion.

So this is old age. If you are not yet in it, you may be shuddering. If you are, you will perhaps disagree, in which case I can only say: this is how it is for me. And if it sounds – to anyone – a pretty pallid sort of place, I can refute that. It is not. Certain desires and drives have gone. But what remains is response. I am as alive to the world as I have ever been – alive to everything I see and hear and feel. I revel in the spring sunshine, and the cream and purple hellebore in the garden; I listen to a radio discussion about the ethics of selective abortion, and chip in at points; the sound of a beloved voice on the phone brings a surge of pleasure. I think there is a sea-change, in old age – a metamorphosis of the sensibilities. With those old consuming vigours now muted, something else comes into its own – an almost luxurious appreciation of the world that you are still in. 

Spring was never so vibrant; autumn never so richly gold. People are of abiding interest – observed in the street, overheard on a bus. The small pleasures have bloomed into points of relish in the day – food, opening the newspaper (new minted, just for me), a shower, the comfort of bed. It is almost like some kind of end-game salute to the intensity of childhood experience, when the world was new. It is an old accustomed world now, but invested with fresh significance; I've seen all this before, done all this, but am somehow able to find new and sharpened pleasure.

Those of us not yet in the departure lounge and still able to take a good look at what has made them – us – like this can find some solace in doing so. What has happened is such an eccentric mixture of immediate and long-drawn-out, the arrival of a condition that has been decades in the making but seems to have turned up this morning. The succession of people that we have been – Sir Thomas Browne's "varieties of himself" – are suddenly elided into this (final?) version, disturbingly alien when we catch sight of a mirror, but also evocative of a whole range of known personae. 

What we have been still lurks – and even more so within. This old age self is just a top dressing, it seems; early selves are still mutinously present, getting a word in now and then. And all this is interesting – hence the solace. I never imagined that old age would be quite like this – possibly because, like most, I never much bothered to imagine it

Penelope Lively is a highly respected Briish Author of primarily children's books.