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“Remorse, emptiness, relief, disbelief, sadness, feeling older, morally diminished.” These are feelings expressed to me in an email from a friend and fellow writer about the death of his son-in-law. But they could as well be an articulation of the existential realities of old age. I am 58, I think my friend is a little older.

Turn the page if you would prefer some upbeat and raucous recommendations for a boogie-fest this weekend. I’m afraid this is another of those columns about the realities of some Fridays — the same as any other day of the week — and not suggestions as to means of escaping them.

“…[D]ied in January of lung cancer. The poor boy was so stoic about it, he took us by surprise when he just kind of went to sleep one morning with no one there and a half-full cup of coffee balanced on the edge of the mattress. I never realized how much I, the wicked imported stepfather, would miss him.”

I certainly hope my friend will forgive me for publishing excerpts from private mail; but he is a good writer, and if nothing else, I have learned where to steal. It is certainly an image that strikes me with equal measures of fear and peaceful reassurance. My father used to say, and often, “Nothing is simple.” He died of a heart attack while on a fishing vacation in Wisconsin on the bank of a lake. It was in September of 1968 and a warm day.

I have developed a phobia in old age — an irrational (no doubt) fear of the cold. Triggers can be traced to this fear. No, I have never suffered through arctic nights, but I can trace them all right. But I have agreed to make these columns less about myself. A difficult business, as I am as self-absorbed as anyone.

It is exactly 3:58 on this Friday morning, and my roommate has the windows wide open. I am writing while wrapped in a blanket given to me by my ex-wife. I think this is the hour, most common, when the human body will expire under duress.

Another friend some years ago, having turned quite yellow from hepatitis C, was brought back to life before finally exiting days later. His comment after the resuscitation was “I was in the palace! I was in the palace and they dragged me back.” Was this his brain’s way of signing off with stored dream images or depictions from books? Movies? Or was he in the Palace? Wouldn’t you like to know? Lord knows I would.

Thoughts at 4:13 a.m.: Hey! How about those Padres? Wonder how their spring training is shaping up? Where do they go? Arizona? I see Melissa Etheridge won’t pay her taxes until gay marriage is legalized in whatever state she lives in. How about that? Brad Pitt and whatsername seem very happy for a Hollywood couple. That’s encouraging, don’t you think?

In the past, being a smartass has worked for me — you know, as a defense against the untenable. Not so much anymore. Just thinking about Brad Pitt’s wife makes me think about Jon Voight, her father, whom I saw weeping on television one night because they had become estranged from each other. Wouldn’t talk to him. Why on earth even think about that? Because it is 4:25 Friday morning. My mad roommate, whom I love, is snoring in the next room, and I am cold.

Regular readers will know who my roommate is and understand. Others might assume I’m gay. That’s fine. Why not? Judy Garland does nothing for me, but I have been told I’m very sensitive, and I freaking well am. F’n A.

It’s 4:30 and bedtime. A terribly funny joke, since I have had the usual three or four hours’ sleep allotted to codgers and crones, and that’s the deal.

At this hour I am remembering a local weatherman. He was fired from his station here in town because of his drinking. I met him in the rooms of an anonymous organization. He was kind to me and encouraging. He had a pleasing, upbeat on-air presence and never at all appearing intoxicated while working. His face, though, was bloated. It passed for some years as youthful baby fat, even cute. After some years, not so much. He looked dissipated, swollen. I hope he is still alive. He would be in his late 60s, I would think. If not, I hate to think of his leave-taking, as it would undoubtedly be much like my own. A horror.

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Comments

EricBlair April 15, 2009 @ 1:12 p.m.

Nothing new about the following observations, of course.

When one is young, the future is a combination of mysterious jungle and neon-festooned playground. Everything is possible, good and bad, and the facts are unknown.

But as one grows older, the laundry list of past actions is engraved like a lurid tattoo on the soul. Most people tend to focus on "bad" decisions, rather than "good" ones. Talking to people, watching television, whatever, can distract. But in the early hours, the "hour of the wolf," the "might have beens" and "I wish I had"s cast increasingly long shadows. Possibility had become concrete, and could always be better. With age comes perspective.

From the questionable Wikipedia:

"The hour of the wolf is the hour between night and dawn during which the wolf is said to lurk outside people's doors. In Swedish and Finnish folk religion it is the hour when most people die and are born. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts, demons and nightmares are most powerful."

Tru dat, as our overscheduled and distracted youth would say. But their unformed future will become, soon enough, fact chiseled into the past. Their "hour of the wolf" will arrive, soon enough.

And here is a far more well crafted set of thoughts on Mr. Brizzolara's observations:

"GOD guard me from those thoughts men think In the mind alone; He that sings a lasting song Thinks in a marrow-bone; From all that makes a wise old man That can be praised of all; O what am I that I should not seem For the song's sake a fool? I pray -- for word is out And prayer comes round again -- That I may seem, though I die old, A foolish, passionate man."

William Butler Yeats

How one lives becomes the measure of a person. Like Jung wrote: "You are what you do, not what you say you will do."

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Bookwarren April 15, 2009 @ 2:15 p.m.

John: You and Josh Board should trade jobs. You need a good party to cheer you up and he need a change. Sam

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piank April 15, 2009 @ 6:54 p.m.

John Brizzolara, I think I may have a crush on you.

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