The humble sock attracted little attention for the first seventy-five of my seventy-six years. I found a pair and put them on, and that was all one did with socks. If they lingered for a few days and got smelly, somebody washed them. And that would be it for socks.
That socks might carry a message from the Boatman never occurred to me until late in my seventy-fifth year, when I selected a pair of socks one morning and found that I was utterly unable to put them on.
Somehow they receded–near my feet, but out of reach. Now, I am many things, but limber I have never been—stretch as I might, I just could not bend enough so as to pull a sock onto my foot—either foot, any sock. Once I nearly succeeded, only to have the fabric of the sock snag on a toenail. And all the while, as I struggled with this recalcitrant garment, now often out of sight somewhere below my legs, time—ridiculous amounts of it—was passing, as I vainly reached and reached.
If I were a resident of the African veldt, or perhaps one of the swift Tarahumara inhabiting country just south of us in northern Mexico, socks would not be a part of my consciousness, let alone a daily and persistent challenge to my morning ritual.
I have not made my peace with socks. Day after day, they humble me and emphasize that mortality always wins. The failure to perform these small, habitual tasks to some might signify the beginning of the end.
But a year has passed, and many ordinary tasks and once useful objects have come to trip me up. Shoestrings are almost as vexing as socks. They tangle themselves in my cuffs, or else creep into the shoe itself.
Cars never made difficulties for me, but now, as I try to get in one or out of one, they do. Finding the snap that secures the seatbelt can provoke ever mounting frustration.
The pattern is obvious: the older you get, the less you can do easily. There are exceptions, of course, but even freaks of nature are brought down by nature anyway, in the end.
The socks and shoelaces are harbingers, and the Boatman inches forward, closer and closer to one’s elbow.