I used to think when I got to a certain age I’d have things pretty well figured out. Not cosmically, but in terms of myself: why I’ve done the things I’ve done. Left undone the things I’ve left undone. Etc.
It hasn’t happened that way. I’m well into that certain age and I know less with certainty than I did twenty years ago. I take little comfort in knowing it’s been that way for others. Oscar Wilde for example. Just before he died he’s supposed to have said, “Either that wallpaper goes or I do.”
No regret. No sadness at the excommunication from his family or British society.
People close to me have followed a similar pattern: my mother, my father. A close friend who was an artist with a flamboyant personality. They all slipped away without leaving illuminating remarks behind. It’s beginning to look like I’ll do the same thing.
I’ve never had a day in my life, not even a moment when I suddenly stopped what I was doing and said, “Now I get it! Now I understand.” My existence has had at least ten times the environmental impact of a person living in the third world and I still don’t have anything summative to say about it.
I imagine being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. “So,” she’ll say. “Dianne. You’ve just had your seventieth birthday. What does it all mean to you?”
All I’ll be able to do is shrug.
“Oh, come on.” Oprah again. “You can’t be that thick.”
“I’m afraid I really can,” I say.
She shifts her strategy at this point – sits back from the small table where we’re sitting across from each other and says, “When you look in the mirror, can you find any trace of the girl you once were?”
It’s an interesting question. I still can’t come up with what she wants to hear, though. “I’ve had a facelift,” I say.
“So?” she says. “Not the nose?”
“No. Just my neck and what passes for a jaw line.”
“Then there must still be some trace of the girl who raised her hand so much in class that she had to be reminded to let other students have a turn at answering questions.” (I raised my arm along with my hand but I let that pass. Who am I to correct Oprah?)
“I see what you’re getting at,” I say, “although I have very few opportunities to answer questions any more.”
Oprah sighs. She probably wants to terminate the interview because she’s decided I don’t get it. And I don’t. I just cannot come up with a meaningful bridge between who I am now and who I used to be.
Yes, I was one of those keen girls who loved to answer questions. Yelled her head off at pep- rallies. Took the launching of Sputnik as a personal failure. But as to where that girl is today or what’s become of her arm, I have no idea.
Time passes quickly. That’s pretty much the sum of what I’ve learned. It may seem to drag from minute to minute but in the main it moves past us with the speed of light.
Gotta love it, though. I guess that’s insightful. Gotta wink as it flies by.