I found de Andrade’s words—quoted in yesterday’s post—so moving because he describes precisely where I am in life.
I marvel at my body’s resilience even as it shows the first signs of shutting down. I’m not a runner anymore, and I no longer walk with an athletic stride—the imperfect surgery on my right knee has introduced a slight limp. Since recovering from lung cancer, I haven’t been able to resume weight lifting. I tire easily and sleep more than I ever have. And I wince when I look in the mirror and see an old man looking back. And yet I’m able to do the hard physical labor as I did as a young man. It takes longer. But I do it.
My brain is slowing down, too. Forgetfulness takes its toll. Too often when I’m writing, the word I’m looking for won’t come. I have to trick my brain into remembering. I can’t think as fast as I once did. I have to grit my teeth and be patient while I reason through a conundrum.
And yet I have no grounds for complaint. I’ve crowded several lives into the one I was given. That meant working harder than I should have. Three times I’ve suffered exhaustion, and twice I’ve been hospitalized for it. I remember scoffing when a doctor ordered me, recuperating from exhaustion, to sleep twelve hours a day. I was astonished when I found I could do it without even trying.
I suspect that my excellent health at this age is, at least in part, a result of my incessantly active life. I maintain my home, a large house on a half acre of land. I write and publish books and articles and book reviews and short stories. I regularly do readings and presentations all over the Washington-Baltimore area. And I post to this blog six times a week.
What astonishes and delights me is that, despite the slowing of the body and the brain, the mind is more fruitful and inventive than ever. I’m not religious, but nothing I know of the concrete world can explain the mind. How can it grow and prosper while the body slows and becomes more feeble?
Is there perchance a thing called the soul?