I drove home today from the eye surgery in Palencia with Patrick in the seat next to mine. Patrick's eyes were closed, he couldn't see the greening landscape or the Canaletto clouds. He'd just had cortisone shot into his right eye. He's had several kinds of chemicals shot into his eyes in the last few months. None of them is helping to restore his vision.
The cortisone shots hurt more than the others, I could tell. Paddy is philosophical about his aging body. He doesn't complain very much, but it is sad, seeing the parts fall slowly off Paddy's fine old machine. He is 75 years old.
Paddy kept his eyes closed, and reached across the gear-shift, and took my hand. He kissed my knuckles.
At home the telephone rang -- Juan Carlos from Astorga, talking about the memorial tree project. The city council says Yes. Faith in Santiago, with some more good news on the same project. We will plant trees right after Easter, in a park just outside Astorga, to memorialize pilgrims who die on the Way.
The book is finished, it's being shopped around London and the Cotswolds among Paddy's literary friends; it's being read by various and sundry. I sent queries out to a couple of literary agents, but got only immediate, automated rejections. I am letting this process trickle and bubble quietly, just to see if this book is as good as I think it is, if it is good enough to catch the attention of any of the few real human publishing contacts that remain within my purview.
I am translating documents from the FICS conference that happened last weekend in Sarria. I am reflecting on the green spring days I spent walking from Sarria onward to Santiago de Compostela in the company of George Greenia, an august professor of Spain and Spanish things, and a dear old friend. He too is aging. He's retiring this year, he's getting his head around that idea.
We spoke a lot about death and dying, people who'd done it, people who were doing it, what we wanted to happen before and after we die. It was not gruesome or morbid. It was real.
Most of the people I love are a good ten years older than I am, or more. I will probably spend a lot of my life alone, after they all shuffle off this life. If asthma and allergies don't give me the drop on them.
It's fearful stuff. But I am still fit enough to walk 110 kilometers in a few days, and enjoy it. I am sharp enough to translate between two languages, at least in writing. I write very good books, even if agents don't find them worthy of their time, even if I am past the age of rich and famous. I am still well enough to take care of business.
I am important, in small ways, to the running of several enterprises, as well as several hearts. Even with so many flavors of failure and death around me, my life is full of meaning. I am wealthy beyond imagining, at least for now.
I drove into town at sundown to buy eye-drops for Paddy, and some new lettuces. Sahagun is full of people home for the holiday, parking their cars up on the sidewalks, embracing one another in the middle of the street, flinging open the pharmacy door to shout out at a passerby, "Hombre!"
On the way home the moon rose up in the northeast, a huge orange coin on the horizon. I thought of Kim and Melissa who are making the new San Anton history booklet into a work of art. I thought about Filipe in Belgium and Kathy in California, and the friends in Santiago who took me to lunch, the ones who let me stay at their house, and said they'd send my book manuscript around to their literary friends... I thought of Paddy, whose hands I hold. I thought of my dog Harry, and his dark wet eyes and fat black nose, how much he loves me.
Like a big fat moon, it all is so temporary. We'll all be gone soon. But it all was so beautiful I just laughed out loud, right there in the car, alone.