Mendel Letters 85 — Reflection in the Mirror

July 9, 2022

Dear Mendel,

About five years before you died, you were probably about 89 and I was 59, I was visiting you at the Century Village in Deerfield Beach, Florida. You were trying to convince me to take over your apartment there or buy my own because I was over fifty-five and eligible for the community. My answer was adamantly “NO. Florida is not my thing!” During our conversation, you said, “You know Alan, I’m getting older.” I responded, “No Dad, I’m getting older, you’re already old.”

It’s now more than twelve years later and I think I may have arrived at “old.” When I go on hikes, between my left knee and my right heal I am limping along. But the most striking part of old is the image when I look in the mirror. Despite the aches and pains, I still imagine a younger me, maybe in my forties. But when I look in the mirror my illusions disappear. I see you, not me.

What are you doing in my mirror? I don’t believe in ghosts or a spirit world. But my hair, what I still have, is gray, my beard is white, and I always wear glasses. My grandkids are graduating from high school and heading off to college.

I’ve been a political activist since my teen years starting with opposition to the war in Vietnam in the 1960s. I’ve marched against war and gun violence and for civil rights, woman’s rights, better schools, and a healthier planet and I’m still marching.

In 2004 I was protesting when the Republican National Convention was in New York City. We were pinned in by police barricades and a young woman asked me how long we were standing there. I though a minute and answered about forty years. She said, “no, really.” I answered that I had been marching and protesting for over forty years. That was 18 years ago so now I’ve been marching and protesting for almost sixty years.

Lately I’ve been feeling down because a rightwing controlled Supreme Court has reversed many progressive laws and court decisions including reproductive freedom and the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy. An old song from 1968 keeps playing over and over again in my head.

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.

I guess I will have to stay young because I plan to be marching and protesting for another sixty years.

Just wanted to let you know that I think I may be becoming you. I’m still not moving to Florida, but other than that, I admit becoming you is not such a bad thing.

Your son

Hard copies of these typed letters were discovered in an old camp trunk in the basement storage facility of one of the few buildings that remain standing in this Brooklyn neighborhood. The building is quite decrepit and is scheduled for demolition. The letters were found in November 2048 by a teenager who believes they were written by his great-grandfather. The letters are addressed to Mendel, the letter writer’s father, who appears to have been dead for at least six years when his son, whose name we are unsure of, started to write him. The son appears very agitated in some of the letters. With permission from the family, we are publishing them on the date they were written, only 28 years later.

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