Father Time, by David Sedaris
January 3, 2019 9:39 AM   Subscribe

 
"I need you to live long enough to see Donald Trump impeached.”

Whenever I get seriously depressed, my sister tells me we need to live long enough to spit on his grave.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:57 AM on January 3 [44 favorites]


Great essay, as always.

The audio version isn't read by David himself. It's so weird to have someone with a movie trailer kind of voice to read one of his pieces.
posted by dawkins_7 at 10:00 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I do not want to outlive my body, but then I guess nobody does.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:07 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Whenever I get seriously depressed, my sister tells me we need to live long enough to spit on his grave.

Trump will almost certainly be cremated so you'll have to settle for spitting on his "library" (lol). Given his family's demonstrated ability to hire both loyal and compitent staff you might just get away with it.
posted by East14thTaco at 10:08 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


His eyebrows were thin and barely perceptible. It was the same with his lashes. I guess that, like the hairs on his arms and legs, they just got tired of holding on.

This was hard to read. My dad is nearly 90 and ill. It is a wonderful piece. Thanks, OP!
posted by Bella Donna at 10:13 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


The only way to get the boys’ attention was by throwing one of the stink bombs I’d bought a week earlier, on Cape Cod. I’d thought the smell would be negligible—maybe like an old sock—but instead it cleared not just the room where the boys were playing Mario Kart but an entire side of the house. It was sulfur, for the most part, what I imagine Satan’s bathroom would smell like after he’d been on the toilet with the National Review for a while.
posted by mecran01 at 10:39 AM on January 3 [15 favorites]


So weird when he mentions several places I’m familiar with.

Also, The Belted Goat is in Pittsboro, nowhere near Raleigh. I’ve eaten there.
posted by 41swans at 10:54 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


The last time I went to her house, I found her on the back patio. It was one in the afternoon and she was having a Martini. “Karla,” she called to her assistant. “Get David here something to drink. What would you like, sweetie, a vodka?”

“Just some water,” I said, settling in beside her.

“Water with vodka in it?”

“No, just the water.”

“Bring him a vodka-tonic,” Phyllis instructed, forgetting, I guess, that I don’t drink.

In Karla’s absence, she pointed to two pigeons parading across her beautifully landscaped lawn. “All those two do,” she said, lifting her glass with her blue-veined hand, the fingers as thin and brittle as twigs, “I mean all they do, is fuck.”


Wait! I want more Phyllis Diller!!
posted by vacapinta at 11:31 AM on January 3 [23 favorites]


Well that was quietly depressing.
posted by zeoslap at 11:53 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]


This hits home with my parents. My sister and I spent some time this Christmas talking about possible futures for us all. None of them seemed pleasant. None of them were ones any of us would choose.
posted by greermahoney at 12:09 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


I saw the Sea Section on Emerald Isle twenty-three years ago. It was in a neighborhood with thick tree cover, which is rather rare on barrier islands.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:09 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Tough one for me too. This last year has been all about trying to help ageing parents...

My Dad is 92, we just moved our parents from their house of 44 years in the forest to a ground level apartment in the city. He has more autonomy now -- his driving stopped two years ago, but he can walk the dog to all the errands, everything being now within 4 - 5 flat city blocks. Still, the decline continues, sometimes alarmingly fast. He carries a card with him with his name and address in case he gets lost. He had to use it recently when he fell in the park and started bleeding out (he's on blood thinners, like Sedaris' father). A stranger hired a uber to get him back home.

My mother is quite a bit younger, she signed on to be his wife and mother to his children, not his nurse. But that's not how it works out, and the emotional and physical toll on her is real.

Dad did a few things right. An indexed pension for one. A younger wife. Having 6 kids, so the odds are that at least a couple would step up. He keeps writing and walking. Still -- the nineties aren't looking that great. He keenly feels the loss of autonomy and mental acuity. He's no longer getting articles published. He's outlived all the friends he came up with.

If you're lucky, it seems to me that you can have a very high quality and enjoyment of life into your 80s. The 90s, on the other hand... Sedaris's dad had a sharp inflection point at 94. My grandmother lived in her own house until 98, but wasn't exactly thriving for the last 5 or so of those.
posted by bumpkin at 12:26 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


Well, being certifiably old, with a mother 20 years my senior, this was maybe the one time I could forgo reading the article.

damnit.
posted by evilDoug at 12:46 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Big Sedaris fan. I read Holidays on Ice in it's entirety every Christmas. Nice to have some new material.
posted by prepmonkey at 1:42 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I'm going to be the turd in the punch bowl here.

I found this piece ableist, and although his essay about his sister who committed suicide made me queasy for other reasons, I found this piece similarly lacking in empathy.

Aging is one way that we lose our ability to function, but to draw an equivalence to the loss of function to an end of life is very troubling.

This essay personally hit home for me in the following ways: I know a couple who had CPAP machines. I had a partner with a CPAP machine. I'm paralyzed from the waist down and I have issues with incontinence that are managed.

I don't think that Sedaris set out to insult those of us who have loss of function long prior to the end of our lives, but the fact that his essay completely fails to acknowledge this--I think it demonstrates a consistent shortcoming of his traits as a writer, which is a kind of solipsistic approach. The essay about his sister arguably treated her as the other, the one who, under the influence of mental illness, had rejected the family. Here, Sedaris observes his father lose his tether to life and become something other than the man with whom he argues about Trump.

That said, the Dave Chappelle thing was funny.
posted by angrycat at 5:26 PM on January 3 [15 favorites]


The CPAP thing was weird... my husband uses a CPAP and it is an absolute joy to share a bed with him, especially compared to the experience of sharing the bed before he had it, when the snoring would wake me up several times a night.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:10 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Sedaris isn't great at empathy in general. I can enjoy his vicious snark at times, but overall he's not exactly warm. And the family sounds like they've had a lot of difficulties with Tiffany and never did figure out how to deal with her. Which, to be fair, sounds like it would have been incredibly difficult.

I just finished reading Calypso and that book sure foreshadows this essay, as the last one in it talks about how his father is in his nineties, refusing to spend money on anything and actively endangering himself in various ways. It was like, for the love of god, DO SOMETHING, y'all.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:10 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Did anyone read Theft by Finding? That collection of journal entries certainly increased my empathy for Sedaris (which may have been the point).
posted by mecran01 at 8:56 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Yeah... There are a lot of odd issues in that family.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:03 PM on January 3


Help the aged 'cos one day you'll be older too
You might need someone who can pull you through
And if you look very hard behind the lines upon their
Face you may see where you are headed and it's such a lonely place.
posted by Blue Meanie at 10:26 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


I love new David Sedaris material. He talks about the combined funniness and sadness that all families, I imagine, must have. Maybe I just interpret his family as having a similar mental makeup to mine, often depressed and also often and sometimes at the same time amused breaking through into hilarity. I read a lot of essays about aging parents, lost family members, and life's indignities but Sedaris is one of the few that make me feel less alone when thinking about these things in my own life. It's like talking to the cousin you played with a lot as a child but you don't see much anymore but is so uncannily familiar. Thanks for sharing.
posted by frobozz at 8:03 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I don't suppose showing them a picture of your personalized garbage truck would impress the kids much these days, either.
posted by steef at 8:41 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Aging is one way that we lose our ability to function, but to draw an equivalence to the loss of function to an end of life is very troubling.

But he isn't coming to that conclusion out of nowhere. His dad is 95 and in a nursing home - he is probably going to die within the next few years. I've watched most of my next-generation-up relatives go through this same process with their parents and this essay rang pretty true to me.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:33 AM on January 4 [6 favorites]


But he isn't coming to that conclusion out of nowhere. His dad is 95 and in a nursing home - he is probably going to die within the next few years. I've watched most of my next-generation-up relatives go through this same process with their parents and this essay rang pretty true to me.

This is completely missing my point. I'm talking about specific details in the essay. He writes that he can't imagine sharing his bed with someone who uses a CPAP machine or is incontinent.

I would suggest that you use your imagination and think about what it would feel like if a well-established writer in one of the most influential magazines in the world claimed that he found somebody with a trait you possess too gross or whatever to share a bed with.

I guess if you want to argue that it's just a bit of shit in his milkshake and it's delicious regardless, you and I have different beverage choices.
posted by angrycat at 12:46 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


It’s kinda weird to ask someone grieving to limit himself to anodyne thoughts.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 4:11 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


"This is completely missing my point. I'm talking about specific details in the essay. He writes that he can't imagine sharing his bed with someone who uses a CPAP machine or is incontinent."

I didn't read this anything but his acknowledgement of his own shallowness.
posted by feste at 4:37 PM on January 4 [14 favorites]


I would suggest that you use your imagination and think about what it would feel like if a well-established writer in one of the most influential magazines in the world claimed that he found somebody with a trait you possess too gross or whatever to share a bed with.

I can understand why you would find that offensive or upsetting. It is ablest. It is also, from my perspective, Sedaris admitting that he is an asshole. He is shallow, and he admits it. Lots of things gross him out and he frequently shares what those things are. I happen to enjoy his writing; totally get why you don't.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:56 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the thing that always bugged me about David Sedaris is that he never bothered to check if Tiffany’s stories about Elan School were accurate. That place was reputedly a hell. Her parents should have been ashamed for sending her there.
posted by um at 7:18 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


« Older Queerness in Video Games   |   The Legacy of Black Hawk Down Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments