My mother retired five years ago and is living the free-form retirement lifestyle and recently, when she turned 64, I asked her how it felt and she said, "It's old." I said, "Well, no, not really," and she said, "No, it's old." I've met people older than she who enjoy adventurous lives and wonder how I can help my mother enjoy the possibilities she absolutely still has in her life. Or is there a profound sadness that I can't reach as a son?
Everyone is entitled to a little weariness, even depression, now and then, and you can't persuade your mother to feel the way you think she should feel. Not about being 64, not about much else. What can you and your mother find to do together that will make you both giddy and light-hearted? A ride on a roller coaster? A steak for lunch, preceded by a gin martini? The Adult Bible Study Class when it's taking up Ecclesiastes? Whatever it is, try to do it a little more often. Don't be her therapist.
Enjoyed the re-broadcast from 1985. More of those would be fun to listen to.
A question: How have you changed since 1985? What do you think about now as opposed to thirty years ago?
Got me thinking and, at 74, I think I'm slower to judge, calmer in temper and easier to live with but otherwise not that much different. We grow so soon old and never do get to do everything we thought we would!
For one thing, my voice is lower, Pat -- on that tape from 1985, I sounded like I was inhaling helium.
What I remember about 1985 is how I felt bewildered by the success of the show. That fall Lake Wobegon Days was on the NY Times best-seller list and I did a book tour and was overwhelmed by the long lines of people, the high ratings of the show, the press attention -- things that a person fantasizes about, especially a geeky person like me who never was really good at anything, and that makes it even weirder when it happens and it turns out to be not all that much fun. The thirsty dehydrated man falls into the lake and almost drowns. People treat you differently and it's hard to adjust to that. You're tempted to believe in your own abilities more than you should. Old friends retreat and you're thrown in among strangers. Hollywood knocks at your door. One Friday afternoon, Don and Phil Everly, heroes of my teen years, came to St. Paul and stood in my office at Minnesota Public Radio and we rehearsed a song for the next day's show in which I sang a baritone harmony part, and it struck me that life had changed. Also that I didn't know my part well enough. It was a crazy time. I look back and wish I had simply locked the doors and pulled the shades and concentrated on doing my work. It's work that makes you happy, I think. A good day of writing is absolutely glorious -- being on the cover of Time, not so much, though it did impress my parents.
To the Host:
How do you feel about Amazon.com's effect on books and bookselling? I am biased, being a book fiend and librarian. Is any good coming from the company having such a huge effect on books and bookselling?
I'm in the midst of a five-week book tour, Steve, and have seen a lot of independent bookstores in that time and a couple of Barnes & Nobles and it's encouraging to see, places like Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, Book Soup in L.A., the astonishing Bookpeople in Austin TX, the amazing Powell's in Portland and Elliott Bay in Seattle, Parnassus in Nashville -- I could go on -- Changing Hands in Phoenix, Warwick's in San Diego, Boulder Books in Boulder, Book House in Albany, BookCourt in Brooklyn, Odyssey in South Hadley MA, Diesel in Malibu -- where you walk in, are surrounded by good books, immediately see two or three you want to buy, and you encounter friendly knowledgeable people who enjoy their work. I buy books from Amazon.com now and then and it's very efficient, takes about two minutes, but shopping is a real-life experience, walking into a store, smelling the fresh paper, scanning the New Fiction table, New Non-Fiction, looking over the Biography & Memoir shelves, and getting some impressions of what's new in the book world. What people really care about, they write books about, and so a visit to a bookstore is a slice of the intellectual life of our country. And they put on events with authors so you can meet writers and take their measure. The neighborhood bookstore can compete with Amazon -- the stores I miss are the shopping center chains, B.Dalton and Waldenbooks, that were at one time ubiquitous and put books in front of vast numbers of people. They fell to online sellers, but your local bookseller is not fated to go that way if it engages the literate public.