I’ve always been a bit of a collector. As a kid growing up in Levittown, I spent my days with comic books, mostly DC because their stories ended without having to buy the next one. Then as a teenager it was vinyl records. Album cover art, along with liner notes and studying lyrics, has gone the way of the dodo when you download music. In my twenties and thirties I moved to art books, limited edition posters, and concert ticket stubs.
But those things were all transitory. All that has changed since I hit fifty. Now I collect something that will last the rest of my life. New and mysterious aches and pains I never had before. I joined, or rather was signed up for, the Aged of the Month Club. Each month a new area will suddenly show up red and inflamed where once was pink and baby soft. February: a cornucopia of skin blotches, barnacles, and breakouts. Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Oh joy! September: Congratulations! It’s a new allergen. Go rake some leaves and take a deep breath so the mold really gets in there.
For November, I woke with my newest collection, repetitive motion injury in my drawing elbow. (And at a time when my career could suddenly blossom like an Outback Steakhouse onion.) So I needed to make some adjustments to my workstation and I haven’t been able to ride my bike. But, like the apartment dog that I am, I still have to get outside once in a while. So I have switched to trail hiking. At first I was a little bummed not being able to ride, but the nice part is I can take our dog with me, who seems more than willing to go.
It has also given me a different view of the area. Even now, with the grasslands dead from the cold, they are still beautiful. The jet black cows that pepper the golden fields stand out strongly against the deep blue sky. We walked along a marsh where cottonwoods and cattails grow. In the underbrush unseen birds were chirping away when suddenly a flock of red winged blackbirds took flight. On our latest trek we spotted a coyote hunting around for a meal. He was only about fifty yards away and as graceful as any animal could be. He looked at us a few times but didn’t seem overly concerned and neither were we.
The gravel crunched under my footsteps and the sound reminded my of my dad. For each morning he would have his bowl of Frosted Flakes. My dad was a creature of habit, something that was simultaneously reassuring and exasperating. But because of that repetitiveness that memory has stuck in my head and it makes me smile out here in the cold.
I guess we all become collectors of a sort as we grow old. Whether on a long walk, or sitting with my elbow propped up to rest, I can spread my memories out like a collection of old comics across the floor and dive in. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for all my friends and family members that have given me something warm to think about on a cold November day.