Friday, July 31, 2009
who wants to be 98?
Mark Twain's famous answer to this question was, 'Someone who is 97'.
I'd like to introduce you to an old friend called David Orcutt who died last week in Vancouver at the age of 93. He didn't make it to 98 and many would say he didn't make it to 93 with all his faculties intact but I'll tell you a little about him and leave that decision to you. The photograph here of David and my dear friend Belle was likely one of the last taken at his mountaintop farm near Nelson, BC. Theirs was a wonderful friendship that lasted more than 40 years.
David got fed up with being a US citizen after WWII led to the Korean war which was never declared as an actual big 'W' war. By the time the Vietnam - Cambodia thing came along David packed the stuff he needed into a trailer hitched to the back of his car and moved to Canada. He bought half a mountain overlooking the Okanagan Valley for a couple of thousand dollars, the land being relatively worthless for farming, and proceeded to build a log house that never was to have electricity or running water. His main project was building a huge barn for staging and showing outrageous puppet shows which became famous enough to attract a small flow of financial support from the Canada Council For The Arts.
David was an intensely kind man. When young people began flocking to the area to start farms and communes he offered many of them places to build their houses and space for theirs and their children's creative minds to flourish. Some treated him better than others as time went by but David never wavered in his generosity of heart. Over the years he developed a written form for an international children's language in hopes that young people the world over would be able to communicate their mutual understandings and thus avoid the pitfalls of conflict that come as a result of our tendency to see the other as threatening. He traveled the country with his puppet shows and spent time traveling internationally collecting puppets and the ancient stories they represented.
He was loved by many and known by precious few in our modern culture, always young and idealistic at heart. After suffering a serious injury at the farm a few years ago his son Lowell had him transferred to a hospital in Vancouver where his recovery was complicated by episodes of memory loss. It was obvious he'd no longer be able to look after himself off the grid but he continued to live happily and positively in his new surroundings. One day when Belle was talking to him on the phone he was suddenly gone and someone else picked up the dropped line to say he was racing somebody else in his wheelchair.. That was David.
This is part of a note from Lowell to the Nelson Express editor as they were planning his obituary:
'Today I was clearing out my father's room at Purdy Pavilion. In his clothes cupboard was a neatly piled stack of papers and things. It hadn't been there the last time I had visited him there. I went through the papers one by one till I got halfway down and was awed to find the note shown in the third photograph. It was arranged as in the picture, sitting on top of a plastic bag full of jigsaw puzzle parts with a kaleidescope holding down the top of it. It speaks for itself......'
The only cure for aging in this world is the one that got David. There are a few of us up here posting our blogs who are older than most of the rest but my take on it is that I know many more in the real world younger than me who have minds and hearts not far from dead. It's all about staying engaged and interested in the world around us.. pissed off sometimes is perfectly natural too.
When I talked to Belle the other night she told me David's last words were, 'I have a plan'.
Good-bye to you, old friend, until we meet again.