Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sorry to have been so long between entries ... didn't realize I would be missed ... .

(Thank you, Mona.)

So much is happening -- it's almost dizzying.  Maybe I'm slowing down without realizing it ... maybe not.  But since Lottie's death and the subsequent period of introspection and regret at those unfinished conversations, I seem to be living with a bit more effort somehow.  I'm painfully aware of the passage of time ... maybe that's natural, just something that's developed over years, and that I'd failed to notice.  Time is tangible -- a kind of graffiti in Braille on the walls of my condo that rush through my body like an electric shock when accidentally brushed against ... ticking away audibly from my little bedside clock.  Hadn't noticed that.  Silences now have weight and a presence of their own, and remain suspended inexplicably in the air as thoughts take longer to arrange themselves before being spoken; strange... .

Then I remember my mother and her quick walk and sassy grin, even at 95 (she would live to celebrate her 101st birthday), and realize that this movie may not be over quite yet.  Long ago I decided that the rest of my life would be lived in vignettes, and that there may be a few chapters in this saga left.

Was reminded by running into an artist friend (and a member of the faculty of the California School for the Arts), the evening that we viewed "The Man From Frisco" on the SS Red Oak Victory. He reminded me that President Beal wanted to meet over lunch soon to begin plans for next spring's commencement at the college where I'm to give the address and also receive an honorary doctorate.  Would you believe that I'd almost forgotten?  At the time of the announcement last spring, there was such a scene at our office that it was as though the honor had already been awarded.  In fact, I remember that I'd felt some confusion when someone pointed out that it was commencement of 2011 that this was all going to happen, and not in the few weeks in May of 2010.  For a time there I was in danger of showing up in the middle of this year's ceremonies with great expectations!  Wouldn't that have been wild?  How was I to know that these things are planned at least one year ahead since the recipients need that kind of lead time to clear their busy schedules (you should see the list of former eminent honorees, and you'd understand).  

There is something surreal about all this, but when I wasn't blogging over the past couple of weeks, I've been taking the time to try to get re-oriented in the light of all of the changes that need to be incorporated.

The Bancroft Library has taken many hours of my oral history at different times over the past decade.  They recently videotaped one of my bus tours and updated the work done earlier.  I'd never watched the footage, figuring that I knew me fairly well -- after all, I've been blogging for a very long time now -- and much of this serves as oral history, right?  

After being reminded of the upcoming spring event it occurred to me that -- since I'm still not quite sure why this is happening at all -- maybe I could find the clues in watching myself on tape.  Maybe I'd find something out of which I could begin to form that commencement speech ... .

... it was quite an experience.  I'm not sure what I learned from watching myself for several hours -- until ego dropped away and she appeared as a third person.  I'm not sure where it took me, but I experienced a vulnerability that was unfamiliar, and the awareness that she merged with the Betty who writes -- and suddenly it felt as if I'd dropped my towel in the public square!  In the days over the past 2 weeks I'd sit at my computer ... fingers motionless ... words refusing to flow from the tips with ease as before.  The strange paralysis must have arrived with the messenger who'd brought news of endings ... and grief. 

... kept telling myself that the weird feelings would disappear tomorrow ... and tomorrow... 

That's today, isn't it? 

Photo:  One Sunday morning at breakfast in midlife; bare-faced and caught by a friend just as Bill leaned over to present a fresh-picked lemon from our tree in the garden.  Hated the photo then.  Love it now.