Rendered Fat Content


Peter Sheaf Hersey Newell: Old Father William Balancing an Eel,
from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
(c. 1901)
" … still in the flower of my youth …"

The Muse remains Under Surveillance after her tussle with throat cancer the year before last. The doctors say it will take five years before they can confidently claim to have conquered it. Until then, she visits The Cancer Center every few months for what has become another perfunctory examination. No evidence so far of any need for continuing concern.

Once an anonymous corner, The Cancer Center now holds memories and familiarities that seem inevitable if one is fortunate enough to live to become old.
Of course, neither The Muse nor I consider ourselves old, let alone elderly, for there seems to be at least another generation ahead of us still roaming around in this world. For us, old people are in their eighties and nineties; the elderly are still far enough beyond our personal experience to seem distant.

As we entered The Cancer Center yesterday, I noticed a LittleOldMan sitting in the far corner, awaiting his appointment. As The Muse and I sat down on the other side of the room after she'd checked in, that LittleOldMan and his companion approached us. It was one of my oldest and dearest friends in this world, and he was there for his immunotherapy appointment. His cancer returned last year and had spread to become inoperable, though he was still able to qualify for some of the new-fangled immunotherapy. His wife was there as his emotional support animal.

We settled into the usual easy banter between old friends. We remember when. We were there when and where. We were once the very flowers of youth. Nothing was ever going to catch up or humble us. Nothing, apparently, except time. We hadn't seriously considered how one day, no matter what, time would render us into LittleOldMen, very similar to the ones we remembered from way back when. My mom maintained a network of LittleOldMen for years, aging cousins and uncles who'd outlived their closer relations. She understood that nobody else could look after those guys, even if they protested her presence in their lives. She'd make sure there were groceries. She'd brave the cigarette smoke and tar-stained walls ubiquitous to their generation to assess their ongoing well-being. She nudged each into assisted living and beyond as their times eventually arrived.

While chatting there, I realized that I had arrived in that place out in this great somewhere where I might be mistaken for just another of those LittleOldMen. As a child, I'd known people born within a decade of the Civil War, and none of them seemed all that different from people who are my friends and contemporaries today. I notice how spry I'm not as I laboriously prune my sacred apricot. The Muse explained that she just couldn't squat down one more time, or she would have finished cleaning out that last corner of the front flower bed. I pause to remove my hat and rest in the shade almost as much as I pull that ancient pruning saw that probably out-dates me by several decades. I hadn't noticed, and I know for sure that my own mirror never discloses just how old I must appear to others. In here, I'm still in the flower of my youth even though my hair long ago went to gray.

©2024 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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