As I age, my past gets longer and longer. It seems further away than ever. So the phrase “long ago and far away” has real relevance to me. I have been considered an old man ever since I turned fifty, some thirty-five years ago. I was shocked recently to learn that my novel Last of the Annamese, set during the fall of Saigon, is now considered historical fiction, even though I lived the story myself. Does that make me an historical character, even though I’m still living?
I look back to my childhood, and I feel like I’m remembering ancient times. I grew up in the hills of Oakland, California. I still remember our street address: 4262 Robin Hood Way. We lived on a slope near the peak of a small mountain. I had a cocker spaniel dog named Bimby (derived from the Spanish bimbo, meaning “baby”). All that ended when my father was convicted of embezzlement and sent to prison and my mother sank further into alcoholism. My mother and I moved to the slums. I became self-reliant so I wouldn’t starve.
That childhood feels like it was so far in the past that the phrase “long ago and far way” describes it. How much truer that will become if I meet my goal of living to be over a hundred. So far, all the evidence is that I’ll make it.