Reading English, Reading Experience

“My father addresses me on the facts of old age” by Grace Paley in The New Yorker

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My father had decided to teach me how to grow old. I said O.K. My children didn’t think it was such a great idea. If I knew how, they thought, I might do so too easily. No, no, I said, it’s for later, years from now. And, besides, if I get it right it might be helpful to you kids in time to come.

They said, Really?

My father wanted to begin as soon as possible. For God’s sake, he said, you can talk to the kids later. Now, listen to me, send them out to play. You are so distractable.

We should probably begin at the beginning, he said. Change. First there is change, which nobody likes—even men. You’d be surprised. You can do little things—putting cream on the corners of your mouth, also the heels of your feet. But here is the main thing. Oh, I wish your mother was alive—not that she had time—

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The American writer Grace Paley (born 1922) is best known for her three collections of short stories, The Little Disturbances of Man (1959), Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974), and Later the Same Day (1985). As long as she has been a writer, Paley has also been an activist, supporting various anti-war, anti-nuclear, and feminist movements. In her writing, however, she does not push a political agenda and prefers instead to chronicle the everyday lives of men and women.