Today is the last day of 2013. My mother is 98 today. What a lot she has known and what a lot she has forgotten. Except in a tourist-y sort of way, does anyone care what she has known and forgotten? Does she?
And what is true for her is true for others as well, I imagine. Not good, not bad ... just "enough already!" Perhaps the human condition brings with it a shut-off valve -- a time when accruing and preserving information and emotion hits a magical overflow point ... there is no more room in which to gather and organize against an uncertain future. The future is simply uncertain and always has been ... what's the big deal?
My mother lived through the Flu Epidemic of 1918 -- the one that killed 50-100 million people, claimed her mother's life and eradicated so many ship-borne soldiers before they even reached the fronts of World War I. She saw cars and planes and wars and coming-out parties and elegant intellects and ladies who played mahjong. She lived in and out of alcohol addiction. She outlasted her father's suicide. She wrote good prose. She suggested creating paperback books before paperback books were invented. And now she has survived into a time when books lose their savor. She sits through her days tended to by 24-hour minders.
It takes too much energy these days -- energy to hear, energy to see, energy to collect and care about all the things she once collected and cared about. The shut-off valve requires no energy. It's just that the bookshelves are as filled as they can to be. There is no room at the inn.
Being a tourist attraction's not so bad.