Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Old Folks - William H. Gass

William Howard Gass born July 30, 1924

First - check out that photo of Gass - How cool is that?

It took several minutes of reading, only a few short passages and then a pause, to rewind in my mind, what I had just read, to fully comprehend what my eyes had just passed over, and to settle into the style of William H. Gass.

This was my first exposure to Gass and being exposed to a genius such as this is a nice side-benefit to this reading/life project.

I think that the word genius has been abused and personally, I tend not to use it often. Gass definitely deserves to have this label applied to his work. There is plenty of information on the net about Gass, and a wonderful personal website devoted to the author which offers assistance to a reader which wishes to fully understanding what Gass has to offer.

I don’t think that I have the ability to heap any more praise on this man, nor could I do it in the ways that others have done before me. Their studies of the man and his work surpass anything that I could endeavor to produce.

In short, I think what won me over about Gass was the hidden complexity of his writing. There is a simplicity which exists, but behind, and within the simplicity, exists a rich depth of expression. The sentence construction combined with a rhythm, created what I can only describe as a movable photo...the words and sentences actually moved across the page...within my mind of course.

I know I’m not doing justice, and my attempt to describe what I felt seem to me to be falling terribly short.

Reading about Gass, it is said that many of his life experiences, especially having to do with his family, find their way into his writing. Well, I don’t think he spared his folks in this short.

While reading “The Old Folks”, it was all to easy for me to draw a line to the relationship I have with my parents.

Now, the relationship the main character in this story has to his family is waaaayyyy different than the situation I have with my family.

I have encountered a couple of stories in the BASS series that have caused me to look within and consider how I am handling things with the aging of my parents and how I am dealing with this progression of life.

With my father, it’s pretty simple. He has Alzheimer’s...pretty early...only 64. It’s tough to talk with him on the phone and have him ask questions which I had answered only a few minutes before. Witnessing his general confusion with his existence in this world is even tougher when we visit him up in PA. To see a man who was so sharp, who was considered to be a leader within his profession, confused and lost within his own mind is tough. Naturally, I turn selfish and start to think about myself, and how, or when and if this will hit me. We are pretty sure his father had it so there is a nice chance that it could hit me. Believe me, I’m doing everything I can now to prevent what could fall on me later in life.

Looking at my mother, well, she is just getting old. Honestly, she’s really not that old – 64. The problem is, that it seems like she is allowing herself to become old. I have trouble erasing the permanent image of her as a 50 year old woman. I don’t know why I have stuck her at that age, but that seems to be where she’ll forever be in my minds eye. Now to see her moving slower, knowing the medicines she is on, adjusting her diet, becoming easily fatigued...it’s just tough to see her – well, them growing old.

Most Monday nights we have dinner over at my mother’s house. Not once have I walked into that house, and not thought of my old life there. We moved in when I was 5, and I moved out when I was 18. M and I lived there for a couple of months after we returned from RO and she too has memories that revisit her from time to time on Monday evenings. Happily, they are fond memories.

So, Gass forced me to look at my folks again, and at myself, and to consider once again how I have treated them over the years and what I need to do to prepare for the tough days ahead in our relationship.

I thank him for this.

Score 10 out of 10.

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