With another birthday comes an extra helping of gratitude

08/23/2014 3:18 PM

08/23/2014 3:18 PM

Yes, there’s been yet another birthday.

But I won’t put a number to it. That information is only of use to my physicians and the actuaries.

I benefit from many splendid gifts: two wonderful daughters, several companionable cats and a dear wife who tolerates my aversion to green vegetables and my constant complaining about the size of the type in The New York Times.

“You need glasses,” she tells me.

I have glasses — six or eight pairs. But for reading faintly printed 8-point type, mere glasses won’t suffice. You need a microscope.

My other priceless gift is a reasonably dependable memory.

I’ll admit that names of known people occasionally escape me. And I spend more time than I’d like hunting for my car keys.

But these are only inconveniences. Some people of advancing years suffer much worse.

In the most tragic cases, memory can fail entirely, leaving the individual with no connection to the past — no sense of his or her self, no connection to one’s own history and no means of navigating what has become an alien present.

You read about these lost souls in the news, missing for days after what was meant to be only a short walk. Sometimes they are found, exhausted but uninjured. Sometimes, tragically, they are not.

The accounts of such events fill me with gratitude for my luck. The past is still with me — still vivid and accessible. And I can return to it at will.

I remember my life’s first dog, a little stray fox terrier I named Snooky. He came to me when I was in early elementary school and lived until the year I graduated from college.

Quite often some small moment or trivial event will bring to mind the images of my parents, younger by several decades than I am now.

I can see again the girls I was devoted to in my teens — I can even recall the sound of some of their voices. And I understand across these many years how much their friendship meant.

None of this do I take for granted. Memory has been an invaluable resource in my life as a writer. Maybe that will change. If the darkness starts to come, I hope that I will handle it with grace.

Meantime, I will do my best to exercise the gift of remembrance, relying on it in my writing life and hoping to make something of value from the treasure it has been.

For more of C.W. Gusewelle, go to gusewelle.kansascity.com.

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