Thursday, March 12, 2009

My father was homeless for a while. He was a drinker, an alcoholic in fact, who was never, as far as I can recall, not an alcoholic. His first life ended virtually homeless between two faulty heaters in an abandoned factory building in Hartford Connecticut on a freezing night. He was a man who restored antiques and he once handled fragile leaves of gold with reverence. With his trusty gilder’s tip of—if I recall correctly—squirrel hair, he laid each golden leaf with utmost care upon the object to be gilded, always mindful of the enormous expense of it. I treasure still that bit of antique. In Wim Wenders’ film The American Friend, Bruno Ganz’s character, Jonathan, believes he is dying from a blood disease. In the defining scene of the movie that still resonates whenever I see it, Jonathan—who is a framemaker—blows a delicate square of gold leaf into the air, debating his next move and then swoops down and smacks the gold around a telephone receiver before he makes that fateful call.

My father’s shorter, healthier stint in Seniorville came in his second life after he had been rescued from the detritus of his ruined shop in that abandoned building. He lived for some revitalized years in the Veterans Home in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, deprived of the dubious pleasure of being a sozzled senior.

The contributing writer to the Observer, Christopher Manthorpe, is a director of older people's services for a registered provider. He wrote in his online piece (though in a personal capacity):

“I genuinely wouldn't want to minimize the dangers that this (senior drinking) involves, of course. I am all for educating older people about the dangers inherent to drinking, its likely impact on livers, brain cell count and bones less resistant to falls than they once were, and the ease with which bored, lonely or bereaved older people can be tempted.”

“But that's precisely the point. The reason why older people are tempted is because they have more troubles and fewer pleasures than they used to. Few older people are so wealthy that they can float themselves on seas of champagne but most have enough money to have a few drinks and forget about their troubles once in a while. Good for them, I say, and if they happen to fall, may they bounce right back and have another drink for luck.”

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