© Jason Walz; quote, from Cold Mountain
© Jason Walz; quote, from Cold Mountain

I

In October of 1994 my brother John and I drove from New England to Iowa to revisit the farm town where we had grown up. I was thirty-eight years old, John was thirty-one, and our mother, who lived in the town and with whom we would be staying, was sixty-four.

I did not like being thirty-eight. Thirty-seven had been much better and thirty-nine when it came would be much better. Here I am only talking about the look and sound of numbers and not about the events that came in these particular years. Forty-one suited me, forty-three did not, and forty-four, my age now, is if nothing else better than forty-three.

It surprises me, when I think about it, how long I have lived. It’s not that I ever felt headed for early death (or for death at all), but instead, I think, that sometime in my thirties the passing of years stopped registering with me. They went by too fast to seem real. Now on those unusual times when I have to give my age I don’t feel quite truthful, although I am.

But in October of 1994 I was thirty-eight years old and driving west with my younger brother and my black lab, Pogo. Sometime after midnight of the second day of our trip, wired from driving, we got off the interstate and stopped at a Kroger’s in Elkhart, Indiana, to buy a couple beers, but the store did not sell it cold. 

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