I know it’s rushing the season, but I would like to give thanks today on this blog. I need to thank the incredibly large number of thoughtful New York Times readers who took the trouble to respond to my earlier essay printed in “THE NEW OLD AGE.” In this essay, I ranted about being old, almost blind, sick, and NOT wanting to be a burden to my dear, caring family. These are truths. Boy, did I get advice!
Hundreds of readers responded – from all over the world. Some scolded me (not harshly, but scolded, nonetheless. I mean, I am 86 years old!) for ingratitude, or for still being trapped in the problems of an impoverished childhood, or for being selfish. Psychoanalysis was recommended, and antidepressant medication, and religion, and other folks just suggested I had to acquire more generosity of spirit. Passivity and acceptance were advised, and greater parental thoughtfulness. I needed to be aware that there were worse fates than mine. My children could be alcoholics or drug addicts or just inattentive, I was cautioned.
So I was reprimanded because I admitted that I minded being a burden. On the other hand, people did not agree about my frankness; some commended it and admired my honesty and thought they would one day feel the same way. Others disagreed strongly. Many NY Times readers spent a lot of time recounting their own unhappy histories and struggles. A lot felt that their parents had not appreciated them! Handicapped folks wrote to me generously offering their own useful survival tactics. Some of the comments were a little harsh and some were bitterly humorous, but overall I would have to say–ungrateful old lady that I am–that there was a huge generosity of spirit in these comments. After all, who am I? A name in a newspaper–and they took the time and the trouble to try to help me. To correct me. To guide me. And to point out all the errors of my ways.
I am overwhelmed by all of this and by the single truly remarkable serendipitous benefit: An old friend, with whom I started my teaching career more than sixty years ago – in a Harlem junior high school – wrote to the editor who put her in touch with me. In the 1950’s, we were each putting a husband through college. I was writing my first published novel – about the lousy racist school we worked in: COME BACK ON MONDAY (Abelard Schuman 1960) . What a joy to find this dear friend again. We have already e-mailed, and talked by phone. She sounds so very much the same. Finding her is the capstone of this incredible adventure, which I have enjoyed enormously.
Being a writer, for me, means engagement, complications, misunderstandings, problems, and criticism, as well as being ready to reveal my eccentricities. The point, after all, is the prose. Words. My words, carefully considered and selected and arranged, the precious treasure offered by the writer.
So I conclude with gratitude here, not unmindful that I have been blessed in many ways, one of which is that I am getting to tell the world about all the ways in which I am ungrateful.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!