Saturday, September 23, 2017

Casting off






When I was teaching, one of the texts that I did with classes many, many times was Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman". I first saw it when I was very young myself and then taught it, on and off, over a career of nearly forty years, and I now realise that I appreciated it in different ways at different parts of my life.


Now that I'm quite old, I marvel at how Arthur Miller, who was 34 - 34!!! - when he wrote it, had such insight into how an older person feels. I know that he partly based Willy Loman on his father, so I wonder whether some of the things in the play are direct quotes from the family. One that resonates with me a lot nowadays is when Willy is bemoaning change, and his wife Linda says to him, "Life is a casting off. It's always that way." How did Arthur Miller know this? By my age it's obvious, but when I was 34 I was busy having our third child and being the centre of lots of exciting things and I didn't really think about it.


But now... our children (reasonably enough) are living their own exciting lives, our parents are dead (that's a hard one) and friends will soon, no doubt, start to drop off the perch (unless we do so first). And recently my remaining aunt let me know that the wonderful Norfolk house that she lives in, where we've been so lucky to holiday for the past 30+ years, is being sold. It's a long story but she retired there with friends, including the much-younger husband of one of the friends, and they agreed that the house should actually belong to the younger husband. It got partly divided into flats for various of them. And she's lived there very happily for 35+ years, but now only she (92 and a half) and the much-younger husband, now for some years the widower, of her friend are left, and he is nearly 76. So very wisely he's selling up and she will go into a home.


Which is of course much worse for them than for us - though my aunt is taking it very philosophically - but very sad for us too.


Ah well. Life is a casting off, it's the same for everyone (much worse for some, I realise) and it's always that way. But it's also quite hard.

8 comments:

  1. We are at the casting off time of our lives, sad, but true. Sorry to hear that your aunt is moving into a home. I've enjoyed seeing your photos of your visits with her.

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  2. How disappointing not to be able to holiday in such a large group in such a lovely house with your Aunt anymore...I do hope the home she goes into suits her well.'Casting off'...makes me think of pushing away from the shore and also coming to the end of a piece of knitting...one a beginning and one an end.

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  3. It is always sad when an era ends but we all know that things must end eventually. You will have happy memories of the house and its occupants to look back on.

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  4. I will be 73 in January and I do know what you are expressing. I think I might have said it in my 30s, but not actually known, in any deep sense, what I had said. And I doubt it is anything one can tell ones children. Even if they think they understand, they can't really. Or so I imagine. Age is something quite involved with trying to grasp the nature of time. And time is a measure of change.

    I hope your Aunt will enjoy her new home and I am sorry for you to be losing the lovely vacation place you have known for so long. But wisdom is, I imagine, finding the happiness of the moment one is in. And you seem wise.

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  5. I love that quote, and it's very true. Having lost many people close to me at a fairly young age, I consider myself an old soul. Not too many people, including my own children, can handle me talking dispassionately about my own death.

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  6. At this stage of life I finally realise that life is this moment. I do wish I had understood that when I was younger and often focusing more on the past or the future than the present and therefore missing it. I like how Thickethouse describes 'wisdom.'

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  7. {Sigh.} I'm so sorry to hear about your Aunt. I'll bet, with a (much?) younger person in the picture, she never thought she'd see the day when the house would become too much for him. I think about these sorts of things often -- especially as we grapple with when to sell Mom's house. ;-(

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  8. I am in the city that never sleeps and surrounded by exuberant energetic loud gesticulating young people. They all appear to be casting on busily and blithely unaware that they too will have to move over and then push off! I am acutely aware of my age here. I don't remember being complacent but I must have been. How could we not be?

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