Man, I hate it when my body gets scribbly.
May 12, 2007 7:30 PM   Subscribe

"You don't die, but your body does."

posted by spoobnooble at 7:35 PM on May 12, 2007

Well. That was sure depressing.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:36 PM on May 12, 2007

omg, I know just what they are talking about with the scribble scrabble hands. I'm checking now for the purple dots. Shit, I am a-skeered to read further. Kida are so brutal. Cute but brutal.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:42 PM on May 12, 2007

Heaven is place where all animals go. Peoples heaven is under ground.

A misanthrope after my own heart . . .
posted by treepour at 7:43 PM on May 12, 2007

No mention of cancer or heart problems. No mention of dementia. No mention of arthritis or osteoporosis. Kids these days...
posted by kisch mokusch at 7:47 PM on May 12, 2007

Those kitties better not make my eyes itch.
posted by buzzman at 7:51 PM on May 12, 2007

It's sad that some of these kids have already been indoctrinated with the usual just-so story...
posted by vorfeed at 8:04 PM on May 12, 2007

Fascinating. They reference appearance and soul in a single, eight-word, sentence. That's what gives kid talk its bite: terse and accidental wit. They're naive, not wise, but sometimes that's just as valuable.
posted by nilihm at 8:07 PM on May 12, 2007

The Old Fools
by Philip Larkin

What do they think has happened, the old fools,
To make them like this? Do they somehow suppose
It's more grown-up when your mouth hangs open and drools,
And you keep on pissing yourself, and can't remember
Who called this morning? Or that, if they only chose,
They could alter things back to when they danced all night,
Or went to their wedding, or sloped arms some September?
Or do they fancy there's really been no change,
And they've always behaved as if they were crippled or tight,
Or sat through days of thin continuous dreaming
Watching light move? If they don't (and they can't), it's strange:
Why aren't they screaming?

At death, you break up: the bits that were you
Start speeding away from each other for ever
With no one to see. It's only oblivion, true:
We had it before, but then it was going to end,
And was all the time merging with a unique endeavour

To bring to bloom the million-petalled flower
Of being there. Next time you can't pretend
There'll be anything else. And these are the first signs:
Not knowing how, not hearing who, the power
Of choosing gone. Their looks show that they're for it:
Ash hair, toad hands, prune face dried into lines -
How can they ignore it?

Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms
Inside your head, and people in them, acting.
People you know, yet can't quite name; each looms
Like a deep loss restored, from known doors turning,
Setting down a lamp, smiling from a stair, extracting
A known book from the shelves; or sometimes only
The rooms themselves, chairs, and a fire burning,
The blown bush at the window, or the sun's
Faint friendliness on the wall some lonely
Rain-ceased midsummer evening. That is where they live:
Not here and now, but where all happened once.
This is why they give

An air of baffled absence, trying to be there
Yet being here. For the rooms grow farther, leaving
Incompetent cold, the constant wear and tear
Of taken breath, and them crouching below
Extinction's alp, the old fools, never perceiving
How near it is. This must be what keeps them quiet:
The peak that stays in view wherever we go
For them is rising ground. Can they never tell
What is dragging them back, and how it will end? Not at night?
Not when the strangers come? Never, throughout
The whole hideous inverted childhood? Well,

We shall find out.

posted by koeselitz at 8:15 PM on May 12, 2007 [37 favorites]

can I favorite the Larkin poem twice please?
posted by muckster at 8:20 PM on May 12, 2007

koeselitz writes "It's only oblivion, true:
"We had it before, but then it was going to end,
"And was all the time merging with a unique endeavour"

Holy shit. This is pretty fucking sharp.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:27 PM on May 12, 2007

"You don't die, but your body does."

Oh, yeah, kid? Think you're so smart, dont'cha? Well what about zombies, huh? HUH? What about ZOMBIES?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:34 PM on May 12, 2007 [4 favorites]

Zombies dye their hair and get body lifts, flapjax. GEEZ......
posted by Penny Wise at 9:07 PM on May 12, 2007

I love the kitties part.

That poem, that poem.

I lost a father to blindness, inhabited by a host of silent strangers, hanging on the air, or in the next chair. I never thought him an old fool, while he told me of his times. He stated that though he had lived through the dust bowl, he had been in a world that held the last of the innate nature of nature, and the last of the innocence of this nation, after this our world would never be as good again.

The wisdom of age, in no way compensates for the fact of old age, and the hearing of that famous tolling bell, that we ask not about.
posted by Oyéah at 9:08 PM on May 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Does That Poem have a source, Oyéah?
posted by nilihm at 9:14 PM on May 12, 2007

Those photos maxed out my capacity for cruel truth delivered by children. And made me want to call my grandma.

Ooo a zombie joke! Thank you flapjax. Now I have "Zombie Me" in my head, and I feel a little better.

If I sing it enough times maybe I'll forget I saw these.
posted by Tehanu at 9:14 PM on May 12, 2007

From kust recent experience, let me say that all the kids are correct.
posted by wendell at 9:19 PM on May 12, 2007

"Not Dying"
by Mark Strand

These wrinkles are nothing,
These gray hairs are nothing.
This stomach which sags
with old food, these bruised
and swollen ankles,
my darkening brain,
They are nothing.
I am the same boy
my mother used to kiss.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:37 PM on May 12, 2007 [8 favorites]

By "That Poem", I meant Larkin's poem, posted above. The rest is just my commentary, on the recent passing of my old father. Oh, oh, oh, but I love Mark Strand's poetry. There is a set of steps in Utah, that has one of his poems inscribed.
posted by Oyéah at 9:40 PM on May 12, 2007

Really old people look alot like babies, only bigger of course.

Wonder what the same group of kids would have to say about babies?
posted by Penny Wise at 9:46 PM on May 12, 2007

Kids are stupid.
posted by ColdChef at 9:46 PM on May 12, 2007

The larkin poem brings up something that has always bothered me. Do people in say their late 90's fear or think about Death a lot? Statistically, they must know they only have a few years to live and yet they seem calmer than a 50 year old cancer patient who also has been told that they will not live more than a few years mor. And they cant distance themselves from it in the way that people in their 30's or 40's can - as still some far-away abstract thing.

You'd think I would be able to get an easy answer - three of my grandparents are still alive and in their late 90's. But the problem is that it seems like such an astoundingly rude question...
posted by vacapinta at 9:54 PM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was curious, Oyéah, because "That Poem" recalls "that vase." Intentional, I'm sure. I quote the poem just because:

"Home Is So Sad"
Philip Larkin

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped in the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft.

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.
posted by nilihm at 9:58 PM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have never read Philip Larkin, but that last poem, certainly rings with me. I am refusing the living mausoleum thing, and dismantling the "Sad Home", I am sending the stuff to the kids so they have homes with things from their ancestors and childhood. I am closing the repository of what was, and trying to have my own what is, as my last child gets an apartment this summer.

There is a time when old humans choose to quit eating, and start the death process. It can't be surmised for whom this is more difficult, the dying, or the living attending to the departure.

I tell you, it is worse than them there shrimpboats tearing up the ocean floor, things dredge up, not that you put aside, but that you forgot ever existed.

The dead leave a wake in their passing, that pulls the ties away that they used to bind everyone into their world. Suddenly everyone left living, is seen in a new, shifting, light. I am the same girl my father told his stories to. I am at the top of my own stairs, and his stories are over.
posted by Oyéah at 10:18 PM on May 12, 2007 [8 favorites]

"Clap on, clap off ... the Reaper!"
posted by rob511 at 10:21 PM on May 12, 2007

Wow, rob511, that's pretty Grim, man.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:56 PM on May 12, 2007

I love Philip Larkin so, so much.

vacapinta, you might find that your grandparents don't think your question rude at all. My grandmother, whilst she was still lucid, used to talk frankly (sometimes disconcertingly so) about death and aging. It's not like it isn't an obvious eventuality once you are in your eighties. They might appreciate the opportunity to talk honestly about it, as well.
posted by jokeefe at 11:10 PM on May 12, 2007

Wilford Brimley would put these little shits in their place.
posted by stavrogin at 11:15 PM on May 12, 2007


The fire is out, and spent the warmth thereof
(This is the end of every song man sings!)
The golden wine is drunk, the dregs remain,
Bitter as wormwood and as salt as pain;
And health and hope have gone the way of love
Into the drear oblivion of lost things.
Ghosts go along with us until the end;
This was a mistress, this, perhaps, a friend.
With pale, indifferent eyes, we sit and wait
For the dropt curtain and the closing gate:
This is the end of all the songs man sings.

Ernest Dowson
posted by taosbat at 12:07 AM on May 13, 2007

My godmother passed away at 94 a little over a year ago. She really didn't want to live that long. She went on vacation to Egypt at 88 (the only reason I went there was because I promised her I would someday, so I did it to honor her after she passed away). Her health started to decline after she turned 90 but everyone kept congratulating her on her age. She would roll her eyes and get this look on her face like, "As if continuing to breathe is some kind of accomplishment? Please. Enough already. I've done what I came here to do. I'm ready to leave while the getting is good. This has gone on long enough."

Unfortunately, she stayed alive longer than she wanted to and the getting got pretty sad there towards the end. I miss her more than anyone else I think I've ever known. She was the one person in my life who actually "got" me and supported me unconditionally from the very day of my birth. She so totally rocked.

Pardon me, I think I have something in my eye.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:20 AM on May 13, 2007

In the beginning, life gives: abilities, strength, beauty, love. Enjoy it. Because when you get old, life takes it all back. It takes your friends, your love, your health, eventually it takes everything you hold dear.

The first time you get 'that look' from a young women you smile at, you see what life has in store for you.
posted by tgyg at 2:23 AM on May 13, 2007

Oyéah writes "...inhabited by a host of silent strangers...."

This appears to be an original work by Oyeah, and poetry in it own right.
posted by orthogonality at 2:35 AM on May 13, 2007

See also: The Way We Age Now, by Atul Gawande, in the April 30, 2007, New Yorker. It's a blow-by-blow account of what getting old does to the body.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:07 AM on May 13, 2007

I have an up-close-and-personal perspective as to what getting old does to the body, sonny. It ain't for sissies, that's for sure.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:44 AM on May 13, 2007

I am closing the repository of what was, and trying to have my own what is...

That's one of the most inspiring things I've read in a long time. It can apply to so many things about life, and I want to make it my mantra... Thank you, Oyéah
posted by amyms at 9:44 AM on May 13, 2007

A wonderful post misslynnster. Also love the philosophical thoughts and feelings inspired in the thread.

Sorry for the loss of your grandmother but glad you felt loved and understood by her. It's my experience that the love of those who died keeps one good company.

The children's images are wonderful next to their statements.

Being old is a mystery to kids, who have their life journey ahead of them. The wrinkles, sun damaged skin, stretch marks, pouches under eyes, scraggly short hair, arthritic knuckles, slow gait, old person smell, bad breath and paunchy stomachs...all must seem scary to children who aren't taught about the ageing process. Ageing is somewhat taboo to talk about in the Cult of Youth here in the West, except in some clinical way.

Somehow I got on the Dr. Leonard's catalogue mailing list 20 years ago, when I was in my early 30's. The old folks stuff in there taught me more about the hardships of getting old than any conversation I'd ever had with anyone.

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." Abe Lincoln.

I love getting old, the understanding, knowing better about others and myself, sense of greater ease in the world, with people, tolerance and confidence that comes with experience.

The past, what was and what I experienced in life, is my own inner landscape and treasured. As is my experience of the present. Wrinkles are expressions of the terrain. It's all part of being, this wonderful, complex and often difficult gift of being alive.
posted by nickyskye at 12:21 PM on May 13, 2007

Yet some don't deal well with death, even as it approaches. My late ex-mother-in-law was more than ready for it, even though she was only 64. Chirrohsis of the liver and thrice weekly dialysis had taken it's toll and she was weary of this mortal coil. I last saw her for Mother's Day some five years ago, and she expressed her wish to die. It was granted a mere three weeks later.
My current father-in-law is a different story. Only 70, with four heart attacks, a pacemaker, a leaking valve, a broken hip, a heart that works only at 15 % at best, and now feeble, brittle bones - the subject of death is taboo. He panics when anyone says anything about not being here - even if you're talking about going in the next room. He only hears you say ..."won't be here.." and instantly believes you mean him. I don't want to be anything like him. He is rude to his fiancee, mean and short tempered with the saints who care for him in the long-term facility. I want to go like my maternal grandparents, lively until the end. They were both blessed, although they both died of different cancers, to live relatively comfortable, until passing in their slumber. They welcomed old age as a new phase in their lives, and it is them I will strive to be like.
posted by annieb at 3:09 PM on May 13, 2007

Poignant story today, Holocaust Survivor Found, but Won't Meet Son Who Searched for Her. Wonder if it's an emotional fragility that came with age that prevents her from meeting her long lost son.
posted by nickyskye at 7:29 PM on May 13, 2007

nickyskye, it might be more than that. She may have left the child as a product of a horrible occurrence and doesn't want to be reminded, she may be cognitively disabled to the point she doesn't remember she had a child, she may have been told that the child died and regards this person as either mistaken or a con artist.

And he may be wrong; perhaps he was misidentified as an infant, and this woman isn't his mother and she knows it. In 1946 Germany it's quite possible that his identification became confused with that of another infant.
posted by watsondog at 8:13 PM on May 13, 2007

boingboing totally stole this post and didn't even credit MetaFilter
posted by matteo at 3:18 AM on May 14, 2007

like, last saturday
posted by matteo at 3:19 AM on May 14, 2007

I didn't get it from boingboing. But that sucks that they time-traveled and stole my freaking post.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:56 AM on May 14, 2007

I am the same boy my mother used to kiss.

Dammit, now I'm thinking about my dad (who is several years into Lewy-Body Dementia and had a broken hip for weeks or months -- we don't really know -- and couldn't communicate it to us), and I'm thinking about my 21-month-old son and daughter, and crying at work is bad form. MetaFilter is about snarkiness, people, not emotion!

posted by davejay at 9:25 AM on May 14, 2007

I guess Belinda Carlisle was right: Heaven is a place on Earth... well, in Earth, anyway.
posted by fredosan at 10:02 AM on May 14, 2007

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