this is the end

Actually, the same day, and I still haven’t finished my homework in the course I’m taking.

Some friends on Facebook may have noticed that I wished them a happy new year in Icelandic. 

I have an Icelandic keyboard in my computer and I have been taking Icelandic classes for several years now but I am still far far from fluent. It’s a difficult language: the verbs conjugate and the nouns and articles decline grammatically and differently according to the gender (different forms for the arcticles (attached), too.))  There are a few different letters on the keyboard that we don’t have in English (ð æ þ ö); the accents change the pronunciation of several vowels and there are lots of irregular verbs.  If I did my homework I would be more fluent but I am not the student I was in my Latin and Greek days. I was  younger then and I had more time. I read that a different part of an older brain is involved in learning a new language, as compared to the sponge-like, instant-learning section of the brain in a chiid, something to do, I think, with the hippocampus, but I don’t know any more than that.  I’m sure someone will tell me. Anyway, it’s good for an older person to learn a new language - word-a-day?

The nicest thing about being old, as long as one has a long-term memory (short-term isn’t bad, either), is that one has knowledge and associations that younger people don’t have.  Mind you, they have techie knowledge that is mind-boggling and they actually know the words to rap songs.  I digress…my point right now emerges from a memory I dredged up earlier this afternoon. I visited some people in my building who are even older than I am. I told them about my struggles with Icelandic and recalled another, older person who was studying Hebrew.  I was going across Canada interviewing two individuals per province for a book commissioned by the United Church of Canada, about the spiritual journey of different people from different walks of life.  One of my interviews was with a retired minister in his nineties, recently moved with his wife into a facility (the current euphemism for old folks’ home). He showed me his condensed living arrangements: living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, all within the space of his former study where he was still studying - Hebrew.

He said his dedication to learning was proof of an after-life. “Why else would I be studying Hebrew at my age if I didn’t think I’d be able to use it after I leave?"

MY elderly friends laughed.  Me too.

Do you find that comforting?