Does anyone else remember the wonderful episode of Twilight Zone in which an excruciatingly young and gorgeous Robert
Redford plays Death resplendent in a white suit? He appears on some old lady's doorstep and she just isn't having anyof his nonsense even though it is her time and he has come to fetch her..... he has one helluva time for nearly an hour persuading her to go with him.
I remember thinking at the time how brilliant and novel the idea of having Death represented by something/someone so deliciously attractive as a newly minted Robert Redford......breathtakingly irresistible....instead of that tired old creature wearing a sheet and carrying a scythe.
Amazingly, she managed to resist him for almost an entire hour despite my shouts of encouragement and lewd comments on her unbelievable idiocy.
I only bring up the subject because, lately I have been casting wistful eyes at my doorstep wondering if the same young, delicious Robert Redford is still playing that role and, if he is, where the hell is he? Not, you understand, that I am necessarily anxious for the Bitter End, but, after all this time of proudly proclaiming my age, I am finding that there is a huge difference between "going on 85" and actually becoming 85.....a situation I dolefully face this coming Tuesday. No, no....never mind the messages of congratulation and the good wishes etc............I am too busy trying to figure out how the hell this could be happening to me. I actually never planned to live beyond the age of 72 because I could simply not imagine myself coping with writing letters, reports or checks dated anything beyond 1999.........and, to be honest, it has not been easy. Occasionally, when my mind wanders, I find myself on the verge of writing March 12, 1933 as I recall laboriously scratching out that date at the top of a test paper in the 2nd grade at the
William Cullen Bryant Elementary School (corner of 60th St. and Cedar Ave in good old West Philly).
This entire train of thought was inspired, indulged and egged on by a fabulous post by one of my favorite Bloggers, the incomparable Mary of MurrMurrs, who did a fascinating treatise on
Adolph Hitler's parents, his ultimate fate (maybe ) and some unusual burial and cemetery customs in foreign countries. I loved the blog except for the part mentioning Hitler whose name brings back wretched memories of the Big War in which I lost friends and participated, in my small way, as an Air Raid Warden Messenger during real or practice Air Raids which happened periodically. (I probably am one of the few readers to whom Hitler is not merely an abstract historical figure.) I recall, like it was yesterday, things like ration stamps and blackout curtains and the air raid sirens and patrolling the pitch black neighborhoods with my Air Raid Warden with a mixture of excitement and dread. We each had a gas mask hanging from a strap on our shoulder (probably left overs from World War I) and a special whistle around our necks....I am not sure what that was for or what good that would have done at all....and possibly a metal helmet...also leftover from WWI. I felt freaky, scared and proud, I am not sure in what order.
However, my very favorite memory was of the night I finally got up the courage to ask the question which had been bothering me since we first began these patrols. (There was probably some sort of indoctrination given when we first volunteered, but I swear I do not remember it at all) One especially dark night I cleared my throat nervously and asked him the big question.........
"If one of these happens to be a real Air Raid, how will we know and what are we supposed to do?"
I will never forget the way he looked down at me for a few moments with half a smile before he sighed and answered , ".......Damned if I know."
The New Yorker covers: February 10, 1968
6 hours ago