I am sixty years old today. It's 8.20 am as I begin writing - something I have been longing to do for awhile but unwilling to take the time for from something else, whether the priority of my studio, the obligations of my day job (endless grading and prepping), or my own tendency to slip in front of my own way and stop me. Already today, I have wept for my parents, neither of whom lived to sixty, and lit two yahrzeit candles that now burn on one of my mother's beautiful plates that I usually save for asparagus. I have read an essay by my dear friend Anne Pierson Wiese (published in the New England Review
!) and - of course - her words spoke to me, to today, to my parents and history and love of objects. I feel Anne's writing inhabiting this writing, and both are so lush with memory that it took a few seconds for me to realize that the birthday candles on my google home page are for me.
When I clicked, I was reminded that I share a birthday with Eric Clapton and gained a new connection: it is Spiritual Baptist/Shouter Liberation Day. I don't know what that is, but have decided not to find out so I can keep my amusement to myself. I may have to shout at some point before midnight.
I have also attended to the mundane, like wrestling with Rosie and a baby wipe to clean her rear end. She's very round and needs help. I'm usually left bleeding, and today is no exception.
I planned to see the Whitney Biennial and visit select Chelsea galleries today, things I routinely miss. But I changed my mind, opting to stay closer to myself in my sunny Brooklyn home, where I can allow this writing to be important enough, work in my studio, and read exactly what I want before celebrating with family. (And grade the last three student outlines, also closer to myself than the Biennial.)
Aging is extraordinary. My thinking and feeling have slipped in ways I don't appreciate. It's harder to allocate time, knowing my life is more than half done. It has crystallized how hard I had to work to grow myself up in my 20s and 30s and even 40s - because of their deaths and the nature of their lives and gene pool - and that that effort eclipsed other kinds of growth. Today, at sixty, my life is where I would have wished it at forty or forty-five. But then I was married, graduating college (again), living in the white suburbs of Boston. Somehow, I left at forty-six and rebuilt in NYC, where I started.
I live two blocks from an apartment my father lived in in the late 1930s and short distances from other Brooklyn homes my parents occupied as children and newlyweds. I didn't know any of this until after I bought my apartment in 2008; my parents died before my questions arose. As the keeper of the "family boxes" for my brothers and me, I found my mother's high school yearbook shortly after moving in. Reading "Bedford Avenue" on the cover, I was stunned that my running route goes by James Madison High. My father went to Erasmus (which I knew), and I live between the two. This bird-like migration is a comfort; having been drawn home gives sense and meaning to a life that is both very rich and still in search-mode.
Turning sixty has occupied me for weeks now, and I didn't realize until this morning's tears and candle-lighting that I have left my parents behind, again.