I once took my daughter to an old-fashioned child psychiatrist because she was having a desperate time with insomnia, and like all good shrinks, his thoughts turned immediately to death. Afterwards, I took him aside for a moment and said, “um, I think I might be to blame a bit here, because she’s very attentive to me, and I think about death all the time.” All the time? he asked. “Well, yes. Pretty much all the time. Doesn’t everyone?” He frowned. ‘No.’ Then spoke slowly, as if to a person of low-IQ. ‘Some people think about making dinner or what car to buy.’
Well that explains it. I’m not interested in cars and I hate cooking.
I raise this because I woke up this morning thinking about Tom, the first proper horse I ever rode. He wasn’t sweet or good-tempered, and in fact I was fairly terrified to put a saddle on him because he always threatened to kick me to death. But he had the most beautiful gaits, and would jump anything, no matter how inept the rider (me) was.
He was already 22 or so when I first rode him, so probably about 25 last week when he had to be put down, which is a decent age for a horse. One story went that he broke his leg in the field, but another account (possibly more honest) just said he was getting too old to be used as a school horse anymore.
In that twilight-y time between waking and getting out of bed, I got to thinking about how, the older you get, the more your brain becomes a graveyard. My sister is there, and so is my father, with the handsome young journalist I kissed at a party (he jumped off a building), the truelove from my 20s (another suicide), a favourite teacher who died jogging, the first person in London who hired (and fired) me, the three friends from my days working in the Chrysler Building in NYC who all died of brain tumours.
It’s worth thinking about death, especially on a day when the sun is shining and the sea is warm, the dogs want to be taken for a walk on the lagoons, the book is nearly finished and I can’t think of a single reason to be unhappy. It won’t last, I know. But right now, alive is good.