It has been close to a year since I launched this site, it seems more like last week. I remember thinking a lot about turning 50 and wondering what was going to happen to that thinking after the fact. I am sitting at Jimmy’s in Kensington market sipping on an earl grey tea (I ordered an English breakfast). To me on the best of times earl grey tastes like soapy dishwater. The coffee queen was chatting up some “boy” and not paying attention to me.
This is part of being 51. People under 27 pay less attention to you. The younger they get the less they pay attention. Maybe it’s because it’s their natural reaction, to ignore anyone that might fit the age profile of their parents. Still I will conclude, as I wrestle with the earl grey injustice, that she may have well not been raised by humans and more-so squirrels or acrid smelling ferrets (she has that look).
51 means less than 50 did even if it shouldn’t. It means not much of anything and I am sure that when I was less than a day over 49 I was still getting ignored.
One thing I do find is that my body has begun to betray me. A simple sip of tea can escalate into a choking fit with hot liquid exploding in all directions. Muscles raise awareness in heed of work that was once mere routine. My mid-drift keeps getting wider. I need to watch my step a little more closely. I get a secure hold of the handrail on our steep wooden steps when descending to the main floor of our house. I know I sound 90. I know I am over reacting a little, but these instances are more frequent along with trying to remember the name of the guy that was in that movie, or what exactly I came upstairs for.
A few days have passed and I find myself at Starbucks on Dundas west of Yonge Street. The picture attached to this post is one that my father discovered of me in a box somewhere and asked me if I could get an enlargement of it. It is me obviously, but it seems from the look of it that I have changed quite considerably.
One thing that I can identify with is the expression on my face in the photo. I have seen it on many of my relatives and family members – it connects me with a sense of displaced familiarity. What I mean is I see a common trait within myself that I can identify with others in my genetic circle. My deceased grandfather, younger sister, older sister, and others. This look of distant pensive non-connection, confusion?
The photo is dated 1963, a year prior to my alleged birth (there was a date on the border of the photo etched into the print itself). This confuses me, but I don’t give it much thought. I think the kitten is just a prop. My grandmother did give me a kitten with a blue bow, wrapped up in a gold box one easter, but I was older and remember images of it. It had a blue bow, but turned out to be a female.
My father tells me that I am sitting on the floor of the farmhouse. Not sure who took the picture, I am guessing it was him or my mother.
Beyond the facial expression there is little connection to the picture beyond me rationalizing that it is in fact me and projection of my perceived view of childhood as I remember it – or babyhood.
51 years is a long time ago. The idea of sitting in a coffee shop typing on a tiny laptop computer and broadcasting thoughts to billions of people not listening 51 years ago is only the musings of the likes of Philip K Dick, or Isaac Asimov. It was the year the Sharpie marker was invented, the lava lamp, instant coffee and the world famous “smiley face” was first drawn.
Maybe I could wear a button with this on it at my funeral. I never really understood the smiley face thing. It was just everywhere – I assumed it was from some sort of 60’s drug culture reference, not an insurance advertising campaign. Does it make you feel good when you see it? Does it make you happy? To me it just reminds me of old toys and books that people ahead of me in my generation left behind.
Back to the photo. Today looking at it makes me wonder what was going on that day, week, month. What did I eat? What did I learn? Why was my hair so long? Was my diaper clean? What inspired the photo to be taken? Was it my first birthday? Did I learn to say some new word or phrase like fuck-off or Jesus Christ? I was living with my grandparents on the farm back then and I do know that my grandfather and mom did have the propensity to swear more often than not. Something tells me my Father took the shot. There would of been a screw-in flash bulb involved, and it looks like it was early evening. Maybe Bonanza or Gilligan’s Island was on in the background.
Now I look much different. I am most likely equal in body fat mass, but other than that I am a completely different person. Our cells die and fully regenerate over time so in fact I am a completely different animal. In a sense you could say that all of our baby pictures are not really us.
Don’t you think I look like I might have been abandoned? Was my mother off to one side repositioning the cat on cue to make sure it was in the right spot for the photo or was it standing on my lap by it’s own accord?
I don’t remember any of it, and I am positive there is only one person still alive that was there. My father. Everyone else is dust. One witness left that was in his early twenties when he took the picture. I don’t remember ever taking a specific photo after more than a few years past, so what could he possibly remember about that day?
Lambs bleat in my head as I listen to the intro to a song by the band Tool. It is called “Discustipated”. Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer breaks into vocals “this is necessary, life feeds on life, feeds on life” pigs squeal in between long pauses, rinse and repeat. It creeps the shit out of me. It takes me to a dark place and I name the post after it – somehow it fits for me.
I know from talk that when I was a child there were dark times. I had a strange illness that caused me to have convolutions and extreme fever. They used to have to run me under cold water in the big white porcelain sink upstairs in the farmhouse when I took fever. My grandfather told stories of holding me as I burned up in his massive calloused hands as he rinsed me to try and cool me down.
“I thought you were going to die that night kiddo. I think we saved your life.”
He would grin at me through somewhat brown teeth as he chewed an electric green sprig of foxtail. He was dressed in brown green coveralls and leaned against the deep red fender of his tractor. I stood looking up at him holding a wooden apple basket that contained his delivered lunch, one side heavier from a large mason jar filled with black tea. The grass was thigh-high on me and it scratched and made my bare legs itchy and damp. Bugs fell into my shoes and ground into the insides between my feet.
51 years later and I am still here thinking about him. Thinking about dust.