"There are many more ways to be attractive than to be beautiful. "
-- William Landay, Mission Flats

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Alone Again, Naturally

      Yesterday, December 7th, was the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It used to be more present in our minds, command more attention. But a lot of time has gone by. I remember in high school a surprise quiz was called a Jap quiz. Can't say that anymore.

     Today is the 40th anniversary of the killing of John Lennon outside the Dakota in New York City. He was only 40 years old. It's hard to believe that the amount of time elapsed between John Lennon's death and today is the same time span as his entire life -- and is actually longer than the time between Pearl Harbor and Lennon's death -- not the advent of The Beatles, but the end of The Beatles.

     As I'm writing this, I'm listening to a recording on Youtube of The Beatles' rooftop concert, with "Get Back and "Don't Let me Down." This was the last appearance of The Beatles, in 1969, over half a century ago. Now George Harrison is also dead (of cancer at age 58 on November 29, 2001, my son's 16th birthday.)

     Paul McCartney, age 78, has five kids and is on his third wife (but fourth partner counting Jane Aster his girlfriend and muse for the crucial years of 1963 - 68.) and he still tours and performs, sometimes with 80-year-old Ringo Starr who also tours as Ringo Starr and His All Star Band.

    What's your favorite Beatles song?

     I find myself in a reflective mood these days, so I'm thinking of She's Leaving Home or Across the Universe. I eventually get sad when my wife is away and I'm living all alone. I think too much about the past. About growing up in my New York suburb, going to high school and college. then going to work in New York City before eventually taking a job with a magazine back in the suburbs.

     I have mixed feelings about it all. Who among us didn't have a first love in high school that subsequently crashed to the ground? Who among us graduated from college with the record and the confidence to change the world? Who can't have mixed feelings about a career that was largely satisfying, reasonably well-paid, but also contained its share of defeats and downright humiliations?

     So I'm finding find myself wallowing in nostalgia, which is what too often happens when I am alone, with nothing else to focus the mind.

     I think about my two kids, growing up in the 1990s, and all the fulfilling moments, and how great it all was. But then I realize: it's all over! And everything since then, since the early 2000s, seems to have gone by so fast.

     The problem seems worse on weekends when all other activities shut down. No Zoom meetings with my senior learning center. No contact with the students I'm tutoring. There isn't even a stock market to watch, to pass the small bits of time, and the weather channel seems to repeat about every 15 minutes.

     I did finish reading Louise Penny's latest book All the Devils Are Here, which brings Inspector Gamache and his family to Paris for a case about corporate greed and intrigue. It's a good page turner, although I thought the ending flew off the handle a little bit. 

      I've also been watching Dawson's Creek, which I had never seen before. My son told me a while back that it is much better than The OC -- more real, more genuine, more gritty with its seting in Cape Cod not Southern California. The show debuted in 1998, when my daughter was in 10th grade and my son in 7th grade, in those last innocent days before cellphones, before the internet took over our lives. 

     Those Dawson Creek episodes reflect high-school life in the 1990s, but could for all intents and purposes echo high-school life from the 1960s. The teenage romance, the parents getting divorced, a death in the family, rebellion against arbitrary school authority. Maybe these are themes still relevant to coming-of-age stories. But for me it all seems nostalgic, and gets me thinking about my own past during all those hours when I'm alone, with no on to talk to, not much to do.

      B and I have been trying to Zoom together almost every night. We catch up on what the grandkids are doing. She's been spending afternoons playing with a three-year-old, and occasionally babysitting for a 22-month old. B is relishing the role of grandmother-in-residence, but she's already getting tired. "I've only been here a week," she told me last night, "and I'm feeling like I've stayed long enough, that it's getting to be time to head home." She paused. "What made me think it was a good idea to come here for a month?!?"

      Meanwhile, she sent me an email with a link to a local outfit that delivers Christmas trees. But I've decided I don't want a tree. I already have greenery and the lights on the mantel, and the outdoors lights over the garage. That's enough. I'm afraid a tree would emphasize how alone I am at Christmas, and remind me of all the Christmases past, with the kids, the costumes, the groaning dining room tables.

     I did talk with my daughter by Facebook. My granddaughter at 10 months is now officially crawling. She would power crawl from one end of the living room to the other to get her hands on my daughter's iPhone. I suggested putting the phone around a corner. Could she locate a phone if it was out-of-sight?

     The answer is: no. She lost interest when she couldn't see it. I guess that's a skill they learn later in life. When I told B about this later, she suggested my granddaughter had to play more hide-and-seek to develop the skill of retaining an image of something when it's not there any longer.

     Which is kind of what nostalgia is, isn't it?

19 comments:

DJan said...

You have summed up the past months for me in this post. I too feel that sense of solitude that comes from being blocked from my "normal" life. "She's Leaving Home" is one of my all-time favorites. John was my favorite Beatle and I was devastated when he was killed. Thoughtful post. Thank you for the memories. :-)

ApacheDug said...

This was certainly a nostalgic (but very thoughtful) post Tom, I enjoyed reading it. John Lennon was one of those "where were you when you learned the news" deaths; my sister & I were riding home in her car, the radio on while we carried on, when the song was interrupted to deliver the news. It was devastating to learn, what a loss. I'd say my favorite song was "Imagine", loved John but my favorite was George.

As for Pearl Harbor... before my time, but growing up my dad was very prejudiced against the Japanese, I think from all the WWII propaganda. We teased him about it, but I didn't take it too seriously until I was around 23, 24 & met a beautiful Japanese American girl in college and pursued her for 2-3 months before she went out with me. When my dad found out, he told me I was not invited home with the other 6 kids for Thanksgiving. It caused a rift between us for almost a year. Anyway... I think I'll read your post again, have a good night Tom.

Sue said...

Dear Apache, your father perhaps knew some men who had been held prisoner by the Japanese. What our guys went through! My Dad told me there had been German prisoners held at a nearby base; when the war was over, they wanted to stay in America. Yep, big difference between a nation that of Christian principles and a nation that bows down to weirdo statues.

Arkansas Patti said...

This has been a trying time adjusting to a lot of alone time. I am glad yours is only temporary as hopefully ours will be also.
I love Imagine and was one of the few that thought George was the cute Beatle.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your thoughts about the Christmas tree. I've been divorced for decades and live alone, and I no longer get a tree. It does bring up too many memories of happy past times, despite the fact that I live alone by choice. I indulge in some of the other Christmas traditions. Most years I spend Christmas Day alone but then sandwich in visits to my sisters' homes before or after. This year may prove challenging! Hearkening back to your last post, I'm grateful that we have streaming available to us during this pandemic, and I'm looking around Netflix and elsewhere to find a nice, long TV series to absorb me as we get closer to Christmas.

Doug is right about John's death being one of those events. I will never forget that night, and I was brought to tears yesterday by a radio report discussing it. I love a ton of The Beatles songs but sometimes if I hear In My Life on the radio I have to pull off the road because it is so moving.

gigi-hawaii said...

Very thoughtful post. I don't remember what I was doing when Lennon died, but David told me yesterday that I had come home from orchestra rehearsal and informed him of Lennon's death. I don't remember that. Anyway, the following week, I bought Lennon and Yoko Ono's CD, "Double Fantasy." Great music.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom!

I think your post is a powerful example of how difficult it is for some people to be alone for any length of time. I know I would not do well if I was left to my own devices for a month! I don't think humans were wired to be isolated so this pandemic is likely causing more issues than we will ever really know. Can you imagine if we didn't have Zoom? I personally think that having a pet can help to offset some of the feelings. Plus, the act of caring for another being can help provide purpose and direction.

I'm not a big fan of nostalgia. By default I look ahead. What gets me through some of these long winter nights is perusing travel websites and blogs and imagining what I will be doing once the vaccine is out and proven safe. That or reading something that inspires me like Seth Godin's new book The Practice.

It all reminds me of something a wise man taught me many years ago. He said something like, "We all go through hell now and then. Just don't stop and buy a condo!" ~Kathy

Tom said...

Kathy -- Luv your quote! Patti -- I thought EVERYONE considered George the cute one. Unfortunately, everyone thought I looked like Ringo!

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Gail, northern California said...

I hope B reads this post.

If I had to choose, I would select Beatles' "Something"(in the way she moves). It would be a better world if every woman could experience that kind of love. Nirvana.

Anonymous said...

Paul McCartney on his 4th significant relationship. As he was becoming famous, wonder why he never bothered to marry Jane..."things that make ya go, hhmmm, hhmmm, yeah, things that make ya go hhmmm."

Savoring Sixty said...

Hard to believe it has been 40 years since John was assassinated. Since retiring I have experienced several days of nostalgia. My "baby" turned 31 today and I have been thinking of scout meetings, bed time stories, guitar strumming, and his beautiful blue eyes. I can't wait to give him a warm hug! I have a lot of favorite Beatles songs and the one that comes to mind today is "In My Life" (a song of nostalgia). Ask me on another day and it could be one of so very many - just depends on my mood!

Valerie said...


Greetings from Texas. Here we are not in any kind of lockdown. Except for the last two weeks of March and part of April I have been everywhere I want to go. So have all my friends and relatives. I have been to numerous doctor visits, many dentist visits (getting an implant), the malls, and out to eat many times. None of us have caught Covid. We wear our masks and wash our hands a lot and keep our hands off our faces. At Thanksgiving, 9 of our family members went out to eat at a favorite restaurant of ours. We have been having our most beautiful weather of the year past 6 weeks. I think that all of you need to move here and you will get out among others and not feel lonely.

Valerie said...

Valerie again

I forgot to add that I am in class 3 to 4 days a week and that none of have gotten sick even though we are not 6 feet apart. I have had breast cancer last year and have a heart problem with my valves. Three of my four heart valves leak blood out the wrong way. I keep my weight down and do a lot of walking in my neighborhood. I do this no matter how hot it is and no matter how cold it is. We do not have to worry about snow.

Bill said...

51 years ago, A Shau valley. prayed for dawn.

Since, sadness each sunrise. Also joy.

Linda Myers said...

This is a tough time of year for many people. Personally, I have been married to two Grinches, so my expectations are low these days. I used to hate to be alone for an extended period, but this summer my husband Art was working on our Washington remodel for about seven weeks while I stayed in Tucson. I liked the freedom to listen to NPR whenever I felt like it (he likes the silence). But the comfortable familiarity with an intimate other is a lot to miss.

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