Saturday, July 6, 2013


We are always re-reading Oedipus and we think we get it:to try to weasel out of your fate just tightens the noose.

The enterprise, Life Line Screening The Power of Prevention, is trying to sell me a bunch of screenings to detect my risk of death from stroke, aneurysms, and heart disease. According to their pitch, the screenings are painless and I don't even have to remove my clothing. If they find a condition that is life-threatening, they will notify my doctor immediately.

It is tempting, but my doctor is no fool.  She knows that too many tests can lead to too much of the wrong kind of information--the kind that deludes you into thinking you can avoid your fate.  We know where that kind of thinking got Oedipus and company.

As modern medicine and technology become increasingly sophisticated, it makes us think that if we pay close enough attention, we can evade death. But they can wave their magic wand as much as they want, and the outcome will still be the same.

I think about having to leave what I think of as my house. But the bottom line is that we are all renters, and everything is on loan.

In trying to come to terms with the increasingly likely need to downsize, I am trying to think of things that I ended up being able to give up painlessly because I outgrew the need for them.  For one who has a lifelong habit of hanging on to everything for dear life, that list might not be long. I think I need to work on it.

One way that I was working on it, perhaps unconsciously, was in one of my efforts to do the Daily Themes creative writing assignments along with my students. Although the piece below was written well before the passage above, I now see that they have a lot in common.


From the vantage of bed, I survey my inner sanctum. Formerly on the floor below, we have moved up. I think of the old French boarding houses like Père Goriot's, where each ascension meant the opposite:fortunes depleting, life oozing, spirits dashed.

Is my trajectory so different ? This space feels master-suitely luxurious. Self-sufficient. Flooded with light. Honeyed Pear on the walks and ceiling. Playful touches of turquoise punctuate here and there, and the Tudor-ish timbers and shelves gleam dark cherry. Although there's no kitchen, it feels like all I'd ever need. I flash to Camus' Meursault who, in prison, passed the time thinking about the smallest details of his spartan apartment. He realized, to his surprise, that he had enough memories to keep boredom at bay through a hundred years of incarceration.

1907 was a good year to build. Servants used to live up here, and it took some hundred years to realize, "Hey! That's the best part of the house! Keep it for yourself !"

In this space some favorite things repose--better-controlled clutter than elsewhere. Having reached the divestment phase of life, could I unleash my hoarding?

No way around it. Taxes are up, and I may have to move on. This was not part of the plan. I figured I'd be carried out of this house--a soothingly wrenching prospect. When you are a child of the Depression, to downsize feels like death. And don't get me started on the Holocaust.

I think of my brave Russian ancestors who traded the Old Country for this one. And now, I am poised to do the reverse.

The bottom line? We are just the caretakers. Everything is on loan. It will all end up behind us.

If we are lucky, the aura will remain.

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