The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Decripitude: a Real Trip

by Tricia Dower

I just spent a good half-hour trying to remember the first line from a vintage song that popped into my head: “Open the door, Richard.” The second line is “Open that door and let me in.” Or, at least I think it is.

That song is almost as old as I am. My father used to sing it around the house and why it came to me when it did I don’t know. The part I couldn’t remember was Richard’s name. I tried Buster, Chester, Buddy, Albert, Brother, Sister. The frequency with which this sort of memory lapse occurs these days scares the crap out of me. Ginko biloba—I’ve got some tablets— is supposed to help, but you have to remember to take it.

Here's another thing: I’ve begun making up words. Last night, I said earphones instead of headphones and then said, “That doesn’t sound right.” And, of course, it wasn’t. The young woman I was speaking with said, “Well that makes sense. You do put them on your ears.” She was trying to make me feel better, and that’s another sign you’re slipping. Younger people start tossing you false assurances.

“That could happen to anyone,” my son said, when I tripped on a bit of raised sidewalk and fell hard enough to break my glasses, strain my thumb and cut up both hands and one knee. It was my second face plant in seven months and, now, I keep my eyes down when I walk, carefully lifting my feet, watching for the smallest thing they could trip on. It occurs to me that old people don’t walk slowly because they’re incapable of moving faster. It’s because they’re afraid they’ll end up with pins in hips and, then—because they're immobile—blood clots and bedsores.

Mobility is one of those words that creep into discussions about aging, along with vulnerability. A friend with bad hips and knees says, “If somebody with a gun was chasing me, I wouldn’t be able to run to save my life.” We’re the lagging antelopes on the edge of the herd, our asses seconds away from a lion’s jaw. Open the clouds, Heaven. Open those clouds and let us in.

On a cheerier note, in this recent online interview I had a chance to opine about how living for so long contributed to the stories in Silent Girl. Please check it out and leave a comment. The questions are from Kerry Clare, Toronto-based writer and literary blogger. Kerry has a story out in the latest issue of The New Quarterly and, just like our very own Andrew Tibbets, she’s a blogger-in-residence at Descant.

Photo by Colin Dower: Autumn leaves in Wellington, Ontario


Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I'd write more about how much I like your post but I strained my thumbs opening a jar of prunes, stepped on my reading glasses and just remembered I left my car at the mall last week.
MWAH, Andrew

Thu Nov 13, 11:39:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stopped wearing platform shoes because I kept falling off of them. Welcome to the club, Sis. You have a lot of company.

Thu Nov 13, 11:43:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Andrew. You're too funny. And thanks, too, for your comment on the interview site. That was so thoughtful.

Platform shoes, Lili? I wouldn't even dare. I saw some platform boots without heels, so you walk on your toes. Now why would anyone think that was stylish?

Thu Nov 13, 01:50:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger t said...

Hey, memory is over-rated, anyway! Maybe it's better to have a mediocre memory all through life, so's not to be mortified by such things.

Fri Nov 14, 03:15:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous ruth taylor said...

Hey, I say earphones! And now that I look it up, it's in the Canadian Oxford dictionary (or am I confusing something here). I say you can cross that one off your list.

That fall sounds really nasty though.

I haven't had a face plant lately. The last one I remember was when my oldest was a toddler and I had him on my shoulders. I stepped off the curb and into a hole and over we went. It was all the more dramatic because my hands shot up to protect Jose Juan's head instead of out to break my fall.

But we were ok. Small miracles.

Fri Nov 14, 05:12:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks for the reassurances, Tamara and Ruth -- you're younger, right? I like the idea of selective memory when it filters out some of the bad stuff. Your fall sounds bad, too, Ruth. I can relate. We moms tend to think of our kids first.

Fri Nov 14, 05:47:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

re: second face plant in seven months.

You be careful now, girl. You probably have too many stories still in that lovely head of yours. I used to walk into the same sign post almost everyday on my way home. I can still hear the ring of that metallic clang in my skull. I was, like, six years old.

Sun Nov 16, 06:05:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

My mom sang Open the Door Richard all the time. And that's the only part of the song I know. She never finished it!

She also sang Polly Put the Kettle On, and never finished that one, either.

Sun Nov 16, 10:10:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks for the love, Tony.

And Chumplet, so glad to learn you grew up with that song, too. It's got just the two lines, I think: Open the door, Richard. Open that door and let me in. Hmm, Polly put the kettle on, we'll all have tea.

Mon Nov 17, 04:17:00 am GMT-5  

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