One of her former colleagues from Maryknoll/Miriam was there at the wake last night, asked how old Auntie Lutz was when she died (89), and proclaimed, "She lived a very long time."
Immediately, I saw the ratio of my own age to hers, saw my childhood flash before my eyes, and wondered if I was up to enduring about three more turns of my life so far. Then, I looked at my lola, Auntie Lutz's sister, sitting next to me, and thought of all the things she'd experienced in her own life: childhood, adolescence, war, heartbreak, the academe, marriage, children, more teaching, grandchildren, more teaching, the death of her spouse, and now, a quiet life of reading, solving crossword puzzles and sudoku, and occasionally travelling.
Could I live that long, and that much?
I imagined her at my age, then tried to figure out how old she'd been — how long she'd already lived — the day I was born (63; on the brink of retirement), wondered what she thought of her own life, wondered what she was thinking as she sat before the coffin of a sister who'd been just a year older than she, wondered — I'm just going to say it — when will my lola die?, and tried to remember what she'd once said to me — or was it to Mikko? — about death.
I wish I could remember, did she say that she was ready?
I don't fear death, but I want to know, how can one honestly say that they are ready to die?
And I looked at her white hair and her face and her tiny frame in that silvery gray sweater, and I wondered what it was like to be old.
This is a study of a building layout that's sort of possessed me lately. When I first posted the photo on Tumblr, I captioned it, "Small house on the water," but something like "Sprawl House" might be more appropriate.
I don't actually see a house or other structure that itself sprawls. I suppose it could, but really, I'm thinking of the house in great, sprawling environments:
- Stilt house, with a winding wooden dock, over the water of a vast river or the sea;
- Remains of an ancient temple, or Atlantis, or Pompeii;
- Small chapel or shrine set into the rocky red cliffs of a desert, like Sedona or Joshua Tree;
- Lonely shack in the middle of endless woods;
- Little cabin on the green prairies or purple moors that stretch on to forever; or
- Tiny scientific research outpost in the Arctic Circle, during the quarter of the year that the sun doesn't set.
Lately, those tingly, make-believe hermit feelings have come back, and instead of stories, I have this layout, as well as the tantalizing idea of much, much bigger paper.