Saturday, October 06, 2012

Ah, but I was so much older then

Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now. - Bob Dylan, "My Back Pages" 1964

Flying east over the Pacific. Neither day nor night. The only 'time' one could set ones's mechanical watch to is 'now', which doesn't exist  35,000 miles or whatever above sea-level. All smartphones have to be on "airplane" mode". If turned onto "real mode", what time would it be?

We are in the 'Now'. I am hungry but we have to wait till what would be two in the morning  Melbourne time, or noon New York time, to have dinner, so that those alighting in LA will be OK to have lunch 12 hours later. Whatever. It's confusing even to contemplate.

I'd had had a rough time in OZ, 'OZ' as we Aussies call our homeland. It had not been the most pleasant trip and had it not been for my two children, grandson and a couple of very close old friends and family I'd have gotten the hell out of Dodge.

Most people, family, most close friends were wonderful, but this trip I saw the Ugly Australian. I hadn't seen it recently, being too bogged down last year with my  brother's death  and the consequent surrounding of the love, comfort and support of those closest too me.

This time I was raw-er. The cotton wool wasn't there anymore. I was meant to be normal. My brother Tim was (as he is every day) in my head and in  his children's and wive's heads, but there he rests.

So I was meant to be "normal". A normal what? A normal Australian woman in her sixties I suppose. Brotherless, motherless, fatherless. The head of my branch of the family.

My Brother Tim
Grief should have departed by now. However as we all know, it never does. It just fades a little, but in many ways it is more intense in its disconcerting paleness and distance. Pastel memories: we try to grab them but they slip chalk-like, dryly through our expectant and hopeful fingers.

Still 35,000 miles up I was in the future and heading east not west, I was I was in The Now. And without my knowledge, as I neared New York, the years slipped away. One, three five .. By the time I arrived in New York I was ten years younger. Amazing.

A few sleeps and I was capable of venturing out into the streets of New York. All around  there were all people like me. People in their fifties, sixties, on their way to work or the movies. I was one of the crowd. I had transformed into a normal person.

What do they say in OZ if  you are valued? "Yer blood's worth bottling". Well I don't know about blood, but certainly if we could collect it, there is something that happens in the air 35,000 feet up, flying east, that drops years from one's age and whatever THAT is, it's worth bottling.

Of course it is nothing to do with the flight or the miles. But it does have something to do with ageism and cultural differences.

I'd flown from one city of immigrants, New York, to another city of immigrants, Melbourne, and back again. Which city is better to its immigrants. I dunno. But what I do know is that in America I am related to as an American. I can vote, I can have medical care, and people are not allowed to be nasty to me because I am 'old'. In fact with the African, East Indian, Indian subculture immigrants, being old is something to be respected. People in the streets, even pushy New Yorkers defer to me.
And in any case, about 30% of the population is older than I. I feel young.

I feel valued here. I felt valued in Australia, but there only by the few.
I tell people about the Ugly Ocker Bogan Man. "I would have given him the finger", they say, "but he might have shot you". I am talking about Australia, I explain. We don't have guns.

I am confused. My heart is in Australia, but except for a couple of old friends and my children and my perfect grandchild, it was cold, both physically and emotionally there.

I WILL return to Australia. But I'll be careful in building my nest. I'll surround it with my true friends and family. I'll rarely venture out alone.

But on the plus side - and there's always a plus side as one of my favourite New Yorkers has told me time and time again - I know now, across two continents, who the people are who truly care for me.

Yes, in the words of the great man, and BTW you must get his new album,

"I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"35,000 ft up, fresh out of noise (data) and nothing on the clock but the maker's name."
Old World War 2 pilots' patter.
Wasn't it kind of refreshing to be in timeless solitude? That's the way it always affects me. What I'd really like is a cocoon to sleep in all the way, but that's about U$D 7,500 RT.
Good to have you back in one physical piece (if not emotional.)

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