The Youthening Brain

Our “choose life!” option – an observation, by L.E. Taylor 

“I don’t have any stories,” Brenda insisted. “Certainly not any happy ones.”

Brenda had been badgered by her Red Hatter friends for months about joining them in a memoir-writing workshop that they’d been attending since last year. Red Hatters is a national association of women, 55-and-over. Their mission is to enrich the lives of their members through myriad activities, cultural adventures, and supportive sisterhood.

Brenda’s two ‘Sisters-in-the-Hat’ had derived pleasure from their writing sessions and assignments, and more, they had begun to enjoy their storytelling adventures in fellowship with others. Finally, tired of the good-natured hassle from her pals, Brenda had given in and attended a class.

The class turned out to be more than wistful gabbing (and complaining) about old times and a little half-baked noodling on note paper. The classes were disciplined and literary. The very term “memoirs” is daunting to any writer; for sixty-to-ninety-year olds, it ranks in appeal up there with pole vaulting. But this class was not about fancy book-writing; it required nothing short of – or for that matter, beyond – skilled storytelling. And it started, no-nonsense, with the Truth.

What is it about aging that seems to dope men and women into a stupor of passive audience-mode? It wasn’t always so. A century ago men worked until they couldn’t; what else was there to do? After all, we were not born to loaf, but to till God’s garden. And women beyond child-bearing age, were finally seasoned to wisely shepherd the responsible rearing of grandchildren.

Old fashioned? Male chauvinism? Fine; show the soul-satisfaction that accrues from a steady regimen of The View, The Ellen Show, and bunko games. Or for that matter, non-stop billiards or geriatric duffing about in electric carts.

It came to light in the first class that Brenda was not only a self-reliant seasoned woman who’d grown from childhood poverty to determined accomplishment as a seamstress, but she was also an attractive, youngish seventy-year old with a wonderful sense of humor. And, by the way, she was defying mid-stage cancer.

When Brenda had learned of her affliction, well before she joined the class, she’d consulted with herself and decided what she would do to save her life and what she would not do. For a time, she endured the rigors of aggressive chemo, survived it, and now with medical supervision, has put her mind and her spirit to wellness.

Brenda has been in that storytelling workshop with her Red Hatter sisters for a couple of months. Her writing, from day one, has been excellent. It has never even touched upon her health issues. On her fourth active week in the workshop, she strode to the podium and read her remembrance of childhood on the family’s hard-scrabble farm in Minnesota. The title was “The Wood Workers”. It began:

Maude and Charlie took up more than their share of the barn, or so it seemed to me as a child. They were a team of huge work horses. Bred to pull heavy loads…

The simple prose, through the eyes of a nine-year-old farm girl, progressed through four finely crafted paragraphs and the essay concluded…

Like many other work horses, Maude and Charlie outlived their usefulness and were sold. They were replaced by tractors and other equipment and a way of life was gone.

God bless those among us who choose to use their brains and share their spirits until there is no more. It was His intent.

Onward.

ltaylor_signature

 

 

 

 

LETs Blog    

 

Good Words Ruined – Part Two, P.C. or Not P.C.

Reflections on lingua franca claptrap by L. E. Taylor

I promised I would avoid politics. And gladly. But politics won’t avoid me. The already worn out cliché of political correctness won’t leave us old paleo-purists alone. If a fellow even tip-toes within a homonym of a verboten syllable of some protected utterance, it’s jail-time for them.

And there, gentle reader, you have one of the Top Ten on the Sacred Codex. One of the most pervasively proscribed references in 21st century English is: the masculine gender. See, lads and lassies, the last sentence of that first paragraph required the singular gender-neutral word “him”.

The Grand Inquisitor speaks:

Not so fast, my good man! That is no longer acceptable. It’s not inclusive, it’s a demeaning remnant of a culture we must obliterate; the musty old King James assumption of male dominance. If you want out of jail, Citizen, the very least correction you must make –is ‘him/her’.

Your humble Scribe replies:

Oh really? Well, your Eminence, tell that to The Bard of Stratford; tell it to Charles Dickens, to Papa Hemingway… to Walt Whitman! Too many males? Explore the works of Jane Austin, J.K. Rowling, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Joyce Carol Oates. Come on, man. Pull out your old Strunk and White!

Once upon a time in a universe not so far away, the term “Man” was a reference to humankind. A benign shorthand. Politically, it meant any person. (e.g., ‘All men are created equal’; ‘the times that try men’s souls’.)  “Men” referred to a team or a battalion or tokens on a chessboard. No offense meant, none taken. But now the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers beat the daylights out of each other in the mud, deploying two smelly groups of eleven – people.

Nonsense.

A couple of weeks ago, a classic absurdity issued from my car radio. It was a commercial. Some brainwashed young copywriter had supplied the mindless voice with these soothing words, “… so if you know someone who’s suffering with their prostate…”

Never caught the name of the product. The radio was off.

Onward.

ltaylor_signature

 

 

 

 

LETsBlog

References:

  1. Strunk, William Jr. and White, E.B.; The Elements of Style – Third Edition; Macmillan Publishing Co.; NYC, NY; 1979.
  2. L.E. Taylor; LETsBlog: http://blog.letaylortheauthor.comGood Words Ruined – Part One; February 12, 2014

 

In Your Face

Observation: By L.E. Taylor

A hippie hottie once told me, “You have a very old soul.” She said it soulfully of course.

I knew the Seventies argot, so I took it as a compliment. She was saying I was not superficial. Or something. I don’t recall a clever reposte. In fact I don’t remember anything except how it added to another languid day at the Art Fair. I think.

The remark came back to me last week as I riffled through my archive of family photographs. Many of them go back to the nineteenth century (18 hunnerds, y’all). There’s my wonderfully tough-minded maternal Grandma, Helena, ramrod straight in her impossibly starched Victorian getup and penz-nez specs. And that’s her husband Fred (my mother’s Papa), in Sunday finery and a handlebar moustache, looking nothing like the circa 1915 Detroit shop mechanic who’d been taught to read by Grandma. Advancing through the folders and envelopes, I mused over the changes in my own mother and father over the years, years that I’d been witness to. Decades of hard work and risk and success… of losses, too, and of searing pain. Still, the images were benign, reassuring.

My own photos are more jarring. Not merely the usual transformation from plump undistinguished babyhood to early teen goofiness and then to another character altogether. In those maturing years, something else showed up. I’m not going to tell you what I saw, except to say it was unsettling. I may write a book on it. (No, not the Dorian Grey thing.)

But for now I suggest to you, fellow blogger – as we grow to know each other, that on some rainy afternoon, when you have nothing to do but watch idiocy on The Box, you take out your old photos, all of them. Take your time. Try to hear your Mom speak to you again. Jostle again, in the byways of your mind, with your kid brother or big sister. Be small again peering upward to a tall world. Listen to your young thoughts. Smell the fragrances of the kitchen, of the fresh mown lawn, of the lilac or musk scent you first slapped on when you were thirteen. Relive that instant with the family all together by the Christmas tree… or be surprised by a long-lens grab-shot a lifetime ago at the Art Fair.

Then behold that photograph of yourself. The young one. Not a class portrait, but a snapshot of an instant of gaiety, of innocent, dumb, existential mindlessness. I did. I was way more handsome than I remember. And am probably way more ugly now than I think.

What happened? Life.

ltaylor_signature

LETsBlog

 

To be continued… next time.