November 25, 2010


The old adage is, 'you are never too old to learn'. Meaning not, you are never too old to learn but rather there will always be something to learn no matter how old and wise you get. As we age learning new things becomes more difficult because of our less smoothly functioning brain as well as our mentality - they go hand in hand to some extent.
It should be, 'we are never too old to change'  since true learning effects a change within us.  

My grandfather was an amazing man for his intellect and breadth of knowledge. One day, around the age of 16, when visiting him as I oft did, he told me to come with him down to the little basement that served both as pantry and photographic darkroom. I'd been down there innumerable times, hunting for goodies, bringing up supplies for the evening meal and had always seen the trays for developing, the jars filled with developer and stop and of course the enlarger.  Having started to photograph at age four and sharing a darkroom since age 15 with a neighbour, it was all quite familiar, which he knew. And yet he took me on a tour of one and a half hours, of this little room just big enough to fit a car in, narrating the place and workings of each and every element with excruciating detail, as he was always wont to do with everything, until finally exasperated I asked him, "but why are you telling me all this?"
His heavily wrinkled forehead seemed to rise up several inches as he raised his eyebrows in wonderment. Then he said, "because all of this will be yours one day, youngster!" That's how he called his grandchildren, 'youngster'.

I couldn't comprehend at the time why he would be talking to me about this; was he going to die soon? He had told me, just prior to settling into the frustration of pension at 65, that "72. Yes, 72."
"What's that Opa?" I asked.
"72, that's a good age to go. No need for more than that."  I paid it no heed but then, three years after my tour of the basement, at age 72, he died. 

The thought of him transferring his possessions to me was crudely foreign because I had come to see my grandparent's little wooden house, amongst the dunes near the sea, creaking at night with the rough winter winds of Holland, was not just their house or a part of my childhood, it was my childhood.  Something which, since having started from age five moving to different countries, uprooted just as we were settled in, must stay immobile, immovable, unchangeable.

Can you imagine how i felt when my father, years later was forced to sell the little house, still in perfect condition, its wooden frame having withstood the brunt of seaside weather and Dutch storms for over fifty years? 

I inherited from my grandfather a problem with digesting bread. He was diagnosed with peptal ulcer and as a result would mostly eat white bread sandwiches with the crust removed and white rice. This, he felt, together with antacids, was  the best possible treatment and only the plain white bread, wholly devoid of any nutritional value would not upset his stomach too severely.  

I contemplated many times using my grandfather's method but, being somewhat a 'golden ageist' and later Naturopath, I stuck to my organic millet and rice bread, whole grain everything and kept on eating bread with a passion.  But it wasn't working and all the signs of my grandfather's affliction manifested themselves. This wouldn't do and I had to go beyond, not only my grandfather's way of thinking, which was static despite its wonderful breadth, and beyond my convictions, to find the change that would allow me to continue eating wonderful bread.  

Finally I found sourdough bread, like foccaccia and other whole grain variations that, because of the natural fermentation give my stomach quiet and allow me to fulfill my breadly desires.  I wish I could have shared this with my grandfather, although being so stubborn he probably would have brushed it off. I'm certain a lot of things could have gone differently for him, being so well read, with much unique experience in his life, if he had been more open to change. 

His lack of change stands as a stark reflection for me. Constantly i ask myself, "is this happening because I am unable to see the change necessary to get out of it?"  It defines my approach to Segev where I, at least once a year, completely erase my knowledge of him and start afresh, studying, asking questions, meeting physicians, looking for something I missed, overlooked and hadn't thought about previously because I was stuck in a certain way of thinking. Sometimes perhaps even being afraid of changing what appeared to work. 

Certainly not even one time have I failed to discover something new and it's about that time again, to jump into that new perspective, since without that little change at the right moment, we might get stuck forever, attached to things of the past simply because it's comfortable.

I'd like to be able to say, 'gosh I miss that house!', but it is inside of me, transformed into an additional force looking for, of all things, something new. 

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