Saturday, January 11, 2020

aging in mexico

This is why I pay 300 pesos a year to the Mexican post office.

While I was at the post office in San Patricio yesterday paying my rental fee, my favorite postal clerk handed me the current contents of my box:

  • A birthday card (for an event that is less than a week away) from my long-time friend Colette Duncan
  • A Christmas card from my niece, Terrie Holt
  • A Christmas card from my San Miguel de Allende chums, Al and Stew
  • The October 2019 Oregon State Bar Bulletin

It was an interesting mix. Lots of sentiment without the sentimentality. Well, the cards were. The Bulletin? No sentiment there.

I have retained my membership in the Oregon State Bar as an inactive member. The reason for the membership was a bit unclear to me. Maybe I thought I would one day yoke myself to the harsh mistress of Justice. Or, worse, I had become accustomed to the title that came with continued membership.

Whatever the real reason was, it has become a stranger to my current life. And the Bar's use of my dues money for its narrow political agenda is annoying. One of my Oregon attorney friends jokingly refers to the Oregon State Bar as a communist front for the National Lawyer Guild.

But the greeting cards are in an entirely different category. Colette grew up with me in our neighborhood. We have been friends since grade school, and she has been an anchor for me several times in my life.

Terrie is the daughter of my father's daughter. She has recently passed along stories about how my library gave her a strong foundation as she was growing up. We now track one another's lives on Facebook.

I met Al before I met Stew. Al is a blogger in San Miguel de Allende. His newspaper background shows in his excellently-crafted essays about their life on a ranch outside San Miguel. As much as I enjoy my almost-annual trips to San Miguel for the chamber music festival, the highlight is our free-ranging conversations over lunch or dinner -- a monument to how people can disagree and still be good friends.

During the past two months I have become introspective on the topic of aging. Death has fascinated me since I was four years old. The first two stories I wrote at that age centered around death. Full disclosure would have used the phrase "rather violent death."

But I have not thought much about aging -- a completely different process, and just as inevitable. Probably because it was not until the past year that I have experienced the classic signs of aging. A little less balance. Legs that subtly rebel when asked to climb stairs. Nouns that take a vacation somewhere in the southern hemisphere where there are no telephones. I now run the risk of using that vexatious cliché from the 70s: "I can relate."

That may be one reason I have watched Meryl Streep's portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady twice this month. I disliked the movie when I first saw it years ago. It did not seem to capture the essence of one of Great Britain's strongest prime ministers.

That is not how I see the movie now. I am just completing the third (and last) volume of Charles Moore's biography of Lady Thatcher. The most poignant chapters are the ones following her political fall.

Her former political secretary, 
Mark Worthington, summed up her life after Downing Street as: "The Almighty had shaped her to be prime minister, but not to do anything else. She was made to sit there and take decisions. If there were no decisions to take, she did not know what to do."
And though she continued to make speeches, wrote her memoirs, and toured the world as a symbol of Britain, she was no longer the decider. With less opportunity to use her skills, her mind started to fade, and she walked that path that Ronald Reagan described of his own life: "
I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life."

I suspect that is why I now find cards and letters from friends so comforting. They are physical symbols that someone cared enough to invest their time in selecting something to send to me -- and then actually sent it. I would be stealing that time if I did anything other than to honor those friendships.* 

One day, when I am sitting in some warehouse-for-the-elderly, I will pull out these three cards (along with the others I have been saving) vainly trying to remember just who these people are who I once cherished. Even without names, though, I will know that they cared enough to cherish me.

And I guess that is quite worth the 300 pesos to rent a Mexican postal box.    

* - I also noted that two of the cards featured golden retrievers. That may be a sign that it is time to buy one.

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