I've thought a lot about it lately. The worst thing about growing old, I think, is that the older one gets the more invisible he becomes. To people in general. To friends. To family, even.
Some years ago I wrote a letter to the author James Crumley. I admired much of his work and wanted to tell him so. I told him that I'd once seen him sitting alone in a bar in St. Malo, France, and that I'd wanted to speak to him but hadn't. I'd thought that he looked like he'd just as soon be alone. When he wrote me back--a long and cordial letter--he allowed as how he'd always had that problem. He lamented that he had a "gruff" continence and that people thought him surly and unapproachable. He said that he'd have been very pleased to talk with someone.
It dawned on me then that I had the same problem. People have always seemed to think that I was/am mad or grumpy--unapproachable. Once/if they've gotten to know me they often remarked that I'm friendly and often times funny--not grumpy at all. I'm thinking now that maybe that accounts for the fact that, as a younger man, I was seldom ignored. If I asked something or voiced my opinion, people responded. I've lately found that I'm more and more frequently ignored. Phone calls are not returned. Email messages are not responded to. Even snail-mail letters. In situations where there is discussion going on, my input is rarely sought, and if I manage to voice it, often ignored. Understand, I'm not whining about this . . . I'm just remarking on it. Some of my good friends are approaching my age and are suffering the hearing difficulties that attend, so I sometimes write it off as that--they just didn't hear me. But then, the same goes when I write to them.
Maybe James Crumley and I were kind of scary-looking. I know we both could look scary, at times, even when we meant to look lovable. And the scary look probably fades at a certain age--fades and no one's scared, any more. Crumley died in 2008. He was 68. Maybe he hadn't begun to be invisible, yet. Maybe that's something that doesn't happen until you're 70.