Laughter not time destroyed my voice
And put that crack in it
– W.B. Yeats, The Friends of His Youth
I have an old man’s knees and his crooked wrinkled hands. When the rains approach, my joints begin to ache. I find myself complaining about all the minor physical ailments, just as I remember the backyard men and laundromat women doing when I was a child darting quick as a ferret between their tree stump legs. I check my blood pressure at Shopper’s Drug Mart and check the obituaries at the back of the newspaper. I don’t like to take short cuts through the graveyard, as I once might have done. I have superstitions now, and sometimes I can see black dogs hiding amongst the moonlit trees outside my bedroom window. One night last week, I dreamed about an owl white as paper floating above me — in some cultures an omen of death.
I have an old man’s brain. Yesterday, I found my car keys sitting in the freezer. Poems I memorized at boarding school spring readily to mind. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never solve the Rubik’s cube, and the instructions for screwing together the Ikea bookshelves may as well be written in Hittite.
I have an old man’s pleasures. On Friday night there is red wine and Louis Armstrong, on Sunday roast chicken from time to time. With my old man’s eyes, I can see the beauty of my wife’s curved back, the constellation of freckles on her shoulder blade, as she bends over in her gardening dress to plant bulbs in the sun warmed soil.
I have an old man’s dreams. Hungry, half frozen, blinded by driving snow, I stumble through a dark and evil forest. Just when I’m out of strength and ready to fall down, I come upon a moonlit road. A little way down the road, there is a tavern with lights blazing in its windows. Inside the tavern, there are dozens of people laughing, talking and singing. There is an alder log burning in the fireplace. There is a pint of strong ale and a comfortable chair waiting for me beside the hearth. There are faces turned expectantly toward me. They are faces that I feel I’ve known for a very long time, but somehow their names don’t come readily to mind. Somehow it doesn’t matter. They are waiting for me to take my place amongst them. They are waiting for the secrets, for the stories I have to tell. When I wake up in the morning, I know that everything will be all right.