Abraham Rogatnick & Parker Adderson PhilosopherTuesday, June 21, 2011
|Abraham Rogatnick when I was 54|
When I first met architect Abraham Rogatnick some 15 years ago he was 70 and he was an old man who walked with a cane. I was a youthful 54 who looked younger than I was. When I was in the presence of Rogatnick I felt I was with an old man.
Before he died two years ago, a week before his death, I visited him at the hospital and I read to him Ambrose Bierce’s Parker Adderson Philosopher. It is a jolting story of a Union spy who is captured by the Confederates and is ready to accept his death the next morning. In fact the Confederate officer who befriends him is perplexed at the spy’s fearlessness. When the officer finally understands it all and tells the spy that he is going to have him executed that very day (and not the morning after) the man gets very upset.
With Rogatnick we discussed how even if we say we are not afraid of death, when death faces us (perhaps at the point of an assailant’s gun) one’s idea of death would be severely modified.
I think about these things as I putter in my garden deadheading roses, stomping on slugs or sitting on our garden bench in the sun with our two cats nearby.
Today Rosemary told me she was upset. It seems that our eldest daughter is finally accepting the offer of our lawyer’s bookcase (this one is in our bedroom and it contains gardening books we never use as the internet has made them irrelevant). Ale is going to use the book case (it is made of lovely mahogany) to store her clothes in her own bedroom. In the age of Kindle it seems that finding a good use for irrelevance is a useful thing indeed.
Rosemary is depressed perhaps because this is the beginning of our letting go of material things. I made it all worse by saying that I would have to wash the wall behind the bookcase. She took me to task in my lack of interest in painting the room. Rosemary routinely places old sheets on the wooden floors of the living room and the dining room to stop the sun from fading them. My attitude is that in two or three years our home will be plowed over, no matter how pristine the walls and the floors might be. I wonder who is right.
But I do know that in a mere 15 years I am now not the youthful man of 54 but I am Abraham Rogatnick himself, even if I may be a poor imitation of the great architect. It is sobering, but somehow also comforting.