This blog post is included in:
No Time to Spare
Thinking About What Matters
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Introduction by Karen Joy Fowler
December 5, 2017
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
It’s been two months since I blogged. Considering that it’s the eve of my 85th birthday, and that anyone over 75 who isn’t continuously and conspicuously active is liable to be considered dead, I thought I should make some signs of life. Wave from the grave, as it were. Hello, out there! How are things in the Land of Youth? Here in the Land of Age they are rather weird.
The weirdness includes being called a liar by Hugh Woolly, the famous self-publisher of How, because I was rude to amazondotcom, the famous philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting publishers, encouraging writers, and greasing the skids of the American Dream. Various other weirdnesses have arisen in my life as a writer, some quite enjoyable. But the important and dominant weirdness of life this autumn consists of not having a car — a condition that to a lot of people is the American Nightmare.
We do have our nice Subaru, but we can’t drive it. I never could. I learned to drive in 1947 but didn’t get a license, for which I and all who know me are grateful. I’m one of those pedestrians who start to cross the street, scuttle back to the curb for no reason, then suddenly leap out in front of your car just as you get into the intersection. I am the cause of several near accidents and a great deal of terrible swearing. It’s awful to think what I might have done armed with an automobile. In any case, I don’t drive. And since August, sciatic pain from stenosis keeps Charles from driving, and from walking much at all. I can walk (I have the same thing he has, fortunately much less severely), but after a few blocks I go lame on the left hind. We’re ten steep blocks from our Co-Op market. So we’ve lost the liberty our legs or the car gave us to pop out and get what we needed when we needed it.
It’s a wonderful freedom, much missed. I’ve had to go back to the routine of my childhood, when we did the shopping once a week. No running down to see what looks fresh and good for dinner or to pick up a quart of milk — everything has to be planned ahead and written down. If you don’t get the cat litter on Tuesday, well, you don’t have any cat litter till next Tuesday, and the cat may have some questions for you.
There’s no hardship about shopping this way, in fact I look forward to it, since my friend Moe takes me, and is a really good, intense shopper who notices bargains and things. But still it’s tiresome always having to think about it, instead of just doing it.
Just do it! — the motto for those who run twenty miles every morning in swoosh-covered shoes, the mantra of undelayed gratification. Yeah, well. Charles and I do better with Sí, se puede. Or, with Gallic philosophy, On y arrive.
As for doctors’ appointments, one of the finest paradoxes of senility is that the oftener you have to go to the doctor the harder it is to get there. And haircuts! Now I know how the world looks to those little dogs with the bangs all over their eyes. It looks hairy.
All in all, the main effect of being inordinately old and carless is that there’s even less time to do things other than what has to be done than there was before. Keeping up with answering letters, and writing blog posts, and getting the books in the basement organized, and a whole slew of things like that all get put on the back burner — which may or may not be functioning, as we have had the stove since 1960.
But you know, they don’t make stoves like that any more.