My 84th birthday is here and as unlikely as that seems to me—I am mostly blind, partially deaf, heavily medicated—this birthday calls for a celebratory blog. This one comes after several false starts. They were bleak rants, railing at God for my infirmities. I’m not religious, but I’ve been complaining to God all my life. My husband and I had the same mixed feelings about God; we both believed and we both disbelieved. My husband became a scholar of religion in his search for answers. Mostly I just complained. My childhood in a strict Orthodox Jewish home made me a precocious doubter and a rebel.
Fifteen pages into my complaints: What kind of God blinds a woman who has devoted her life to print, to writing, to teaching, to reading? On I went with my catalogue of laments. Yes, this morning I was wallowing in injustices done me, when a friend phoned and laconically suggested, “You know what advice I always give to people in your situation? Be immortal.”
I snorted, then I laughed, then I thought about it and I realized I loved his advice. I recognized that indeed, my underlying purpose my whole adult life had been just that! Immortality!
Years and years of writing essays, stories, books. Eighteen books published and at least a dozen more still on my shelves in manuscript. Sixty years of teaching, making bad jokes, and good grammatical points, and celebrating great writing. And in my personal life, wonderful talented children and remarkable grandchildren. In them, I truly believe, rests my immortality. Even though they find me eccentric and funny and weird. And stingy! (I was a Depression child. Hot dogs cost a nickel, as did the subway. These days it pains me to board the subway, but I am too old to jump the turnstile. And taxis have always been totally irrelevant.) And, while I am no great name dropper, I have a name! My daughter’s friend from their days at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Mitchell Katz, now Health Director of LA County, explained to her that my behavior was generational. He warned that like my contemporaries, I could be expected to be a technophobe, to completely distrust psychiatry, and to worry constantly about being a burden! And I thought I was original!
This was first hand printed in bright red magic marker in half-inch size letters. A friend blogged it for me.
I am grateful for all I have received and learned – and ever wistful about possibilities.
Thus do I look at 84.
Happy birthday, Sheila!!! We are at St. John’s College in Annapolis with Nathan this weekend. The Friday Night Lecture was given by the famous St. John’s teacher, writer, and philosopher Eva Brann – turned 83 this year. She gave the most brilliant lecture I have ever heard – to a Standing Room Only crowd of 1,000 students, faculty, alumni, and parents. Later Nathan and I both remarked “She reminds us of Perri’s mom.” A grand compliment indeed. Happy, happy birthday!