During the span of a significant birthday a few days ago, I was spoon fed several tablespoons of hard to swallow gloop:

First tablespoon. Lydmilla phoned with good wishes, also explained: “At your age there are no prints left on the tips of your fingers.”

I hadn’t known this.

Second tablespoonful. Richie phoned with congratulations, laughed at my shock at reaching this great age (a number closer to one hundred than to forty). “Like it or not, youthful or not, healthy or not, mentally fit or unfit, face it, Ali, sooner or later, the wheels are going to fall off the wagon.”

I’m getting an idea of what he means.

My sister came and went. Because we’ve both had Covid 19, had tested negative after quarantining, we were able to embrace. This was the very first physical contact I’d had with another person (not a doctor) in four months. It felt great. (*)

After she admired the roses and tomatoes in my tiny garden, she went on her way. Back upstairs, I put on my pale green pajama bottoms, stretched out and dipped a fork into the waiting celebratory slice of amber cheesecake from Katz Delicatessen. While savoring its silky luxury, unable to decant the news of my ‘new’ old age since, when not face-to-face with a mirror, all seems unaltered. On the other fingerprint-free hand, air now leaked from my tires which are (at this point in life) retreads though they still have traction, are flexible, still absorb shocks and still rotate. Is it possible that I’ve blown out someone else’s candles?

I stretched out, read Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad. At Chapter 20 (on Lake Como in 1867) I read:“A mile away a grove-plumed promontory juts afar into the lake and glasses its palace in the blue depths; in midstream a boat is cutting the shining surface and leaving a long track behind, like a ray of light, the mountains beyond are veiled in a dreamy purple haze; far in the opposite direction a tumbled mass of domes and verdant slopes and valleys bars the lake, and here indeed does distance lend enchantment to the view – for on this broad canvas, sun and clouds and the richest of atmospheres have blended a thousand tints together, and over its surface the filmy lights and shadows drift, hour after hour, and glorify it with a beauty that seems reflected out of Heaven itself….

I’d visited Lake Como, loved everything about it. Now, in the comfort of my own nest, Twain gifts me with a second breathtaking visit.

At days end I slip off my pajamas, slip on my face mask and slacks too, and go out to get the mail. In the box, a few birthday cards and a copy of Notting Hill Edition’s “Questions of Travel, William Morris in Iceland” (where he went in 1871) by Lavinia Greenlaw. Just the medicine a wise doctor might order for me. Thus, in hand, happily, is my next dose of lightning in a book rather than in a bottle.

At this point in life, in spite of everything that’s quailing outside, with or without working wheels, I still possess everything I need (or might want) right here. Everything. Not that I deserve it, but I’ve been utterly blessed by fate and feel like a king.

(*) Correction: I also shared a warm hug with my friend DE as he was departing the city after our ten week co-quarantine.