Saturday, May 5, 2007

Empty Chairs

Above is a picture of Ft. Harrington's "potting shed" -- actually, in practice, a little storage house that's mostly used as an animal infirmary for those of our menagerie who require its benefits. It's a well-insulated, spacious (for a little quadruped or a bird), private place, just right for healing.

It is also the last place Max lived in on a regular basis, before he joined the many animal companions I've had who have pre-deceased me.

While wandering out there this evening to store some stuff, a couple of things occurred to me.

First: I haven't updated this blog in a while. That's because I'm working up a major (for me) piece on astronomical images... which actually, probably won't really be of interest to the four or five people who read this thing (:-)).

Second: Looking at that place where Max used to live reminded me, again, of how tenuous our connections are to others -- of whatever species -- because of our inevitable mortality.

My Dad had a large number of "chestnuts" that he would trot out whenever appropriate. This is one of them: "What really makes you feel old isn't gray hair or wrinkles or infirmities -- it's the empty chairs."

Here is a picture of full chairs:

It was taken by my Dad in the summer of 1968 and shows (from left to right) me, my then-wife Mary, my mother, my Dad's place, and my son, Doug, in his high chair. We are in a picnic area that my Dad constructed in a back lot behind the house I grew up in (visible in the background) in upstate New York.

Of the five people involved in this photo (including the guy behind the camera), I am the only one left alive. Mary died in 2004, Mom and Dad in 1999, and Doug in 2006. Their chairs are all empty now, and, man, does that make me feel old.

What makes me feel young once in a while is the realization that whatever I do for my students will be part of their memories years from now, after whatever grade they get in my course ceases to be of any importance, and it should be a warm part of their memories. Warmth and youth trump empty chairs.

So, ultimately, does the fact that our chairs used to be full. Below, my Dad is pitching to me in a baseball batting cage he built in our back lot. Good God, how full can a chair be, and lastingly so? Not much more, to be sure.


ronnie said...

A wonderful post. Thank you.

Mike said...

Yes, good stuff.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Beautifully written, and the photo of the potting shed - spilling out that warm light in the darkness - just perfect.
Cheers from ruth

Anonymous said...

Wish I could tell you when you begin to realize that somewhere there is another circle of chairs, with one empty waiting for you, among so many people you love. It happens, and it's okay.
the other Ronnie