And 1972 is nearly gone, but not the five Blivens, Fred, Naomi and Bruce Jr. in New York, Rose and Bruce Sr. in California. We remain. The family agrees to let Bruce Sr. write the Christmas letter, to keep him from pouting.
A year ago, when I was only eighty-two, I wrote somebody that "I don't feel like an old man, I feel like a young man who has something the matter with him." I have now found out what it is: it is the approach of middle age, and I don't care for it.
I walk with a slight stagger, thus acquiring a lot of new friends; everybody welcomes the approach of what they feel is an amiable, elderly drunk. I forget a lot of words, thus reducing the size of whaddayoucallit. The floor is covered with memors to myself, which I hope I'll be able to reach down and pick up. Looking back, I see my past littered with fearful mistakes and weaknesses, all the way to the horizon, but before me I see only a broad, smooth road; how stupid can you get?
What have I learned in 83 years? I have learned, if you are mugged on the street, don't yell "Help!" Yell "Fire!" Nobody wnats to come to a mugging, but everybody is interested in a fire.
Bruce Jr's new book, UNDER THE GUNS: NEW YORK 1775-1776, was published in July, with wonderful notices and a flying start. Naomi's book reviews in the New Yorker cause us to spend a lot of time assuring strangers that she is indeed our daughter-in-law, and we do indeed think she is brilliant. Fred, at 11, sometimes astonishes us with his maturity, and sometimes not. As is normal. Rosie continues to act as though, instead of being one person in her eighties, she is four girls in their twenties, and is surprised and hurt that she can only do as much as three of them. I am working on a new book, and, imitating my son, I do some magazine articles; the old milk-wagon horse still makes the rounds, unaware that he has run out of milk. But on the whole, our life goes peacefully, like quiet canoeists on the upper reaches of the Niagara River.
We have lost some dear friends the pas twelve months; and actuarial tables being what they are, more of us will go in the next twelve. But we accept the universe, as Margaret Fuller once said. (To which Carlyle snarled whan he heard it, "Egad! She'd better1")
The world picture really does look brighter than twelve months ago. Mr. Nixon in his dealings with the Communists has made the stunning discovery that foreigners are human, and that they respond better to warmth than to coldness. (So do Americans, Mr. President.) The fact that all this could and should have been done years ago is inappropriate to bring up at Yuletime. Indeed, the only thing to bring up, and we shall, is: "Merry Christmas!"
Rose and Bruce
21 Kingscote Gardens,
The Christmas letter has to go to your old address for we don't have your new one. Do send us news of the Alvin Ormsby family. Oh, our happy memories of the happy hours spent with your family on garfield. Have a great 1973. Love those Bliven Cousins.
And Rosie and I are now 87, would we care to try for 174? The answer is No. I am 46 percent as old as the United States, and I still can't spell "seize," and I have trouble with Mr. Euclid's pons asinorum. . . Rosie has aged some in the past year, and now seems like a woman entering her forties. She deplores with me the miscreant who regularly enters our house in the middle of the night, squeeses the toothpaste tube in the middle, and departs. last May we celebrated our 63rd wedding anniversary, far too short a time for a real honeymoon. . . As for me, I am as bright as can be expected, remembering the friend who told me years ago, "If your I.Q. ever breaks 100, sell!" My motto this year is from the Spanish: "I don't want the cheese, I just want to get out of this trap."
I walk with a slight straddle, hoping people will think I just got off a horse. (I considered carrying a riding crop, but gave it up - - too ostentatious.) On my daily excursions, I greet everyone punctiliously, including the headrests in parked, empty cars. Dignified friends seem surprised when I salute them with a breezy "Hi!" They don't realize I haven't enough breath for some huge two-syllable word of greeting.
In New York, Maomi and Bruce Jr. continue to live the rugged life of full-time writers, running hard to stand still, like Alice. Fred at 15 worries lest somewhere in the world a subway may add an extension and he not know it. We had rather read Naomi's review in The New Yorker than the books themselves, and we do. Bruce Jr.'s new book, his tenth, was published by Reader's Digest Press in October, and seems off to a good start. It is Volumteers, One and All, a study of the military, social and other consequences of ending the draft. My own new book, my eighth, is far from being finished. I now regard my former rate of production as taking too much out of me, a hysterectomy on the goose that lays the brass eggs. We shall soon have in the White House a new President, with a new/old philosophy bringing a thrill of hope to some hearts, of fear to others. If President Carter can fulfill half his promises he will do well indeed. Most of our worst problems are worldwide, they are barely solvable, they will take decades at best.
. . . When we are old, the young are kinder to us, and we are kinder to each other. There is a sunset glow that irradiates our faces, and is reflected on the faces of those about us. (But it is still sunset.) A few yards from our front door there is a sturdy old gingko tree. Each December when its big veinless leaves turn butter-yellow and come trickling down, I scuffle through them, look up, and say, "Well, old buddy, we have made it through another year, you and I." Up to now, the tree has refused to reply, probably outraged equally by my sentimentality and my attempt at the vernacular. But some day I am sure, it will answer. And what will it say? You are away ahead of me: "Merry Chirstmas!" of course.
21 Kimgscote Gardens, Stanford, Ca. 94305
Rose and Bruce
(Hadnwritten at the bottom:
Dear Ormsbys: Here's the annual Bliven letter for our cousins. How are you?
How's the golf going? We saw Brad's daughter Pam this summer and her
husband. Very nice young people?
(The following letter was forwarded to:
Mr & Mrs A.L. Ormsby
1400 S. Douglass RD #97
Anaheim, CA. 92806)
To: Richard R. Ormsby, Sr.
5645 Elsinore Avenue
Buena Park, Calif. 90620
From: Rose Emery Bliven
451 West End Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10024
Sunday, 3 p.m.
Sept. 30th '79 (1979)
It has been so long, dear Dick, since I have heard from you
that I thought I'd write you a little note, hoping you would send
me word of you! I am here in New York City in the comfortable
apartment of my son, Bruce Jr. I could not live alone at Kingscote
gardens on the Stanford Campus, after the death of my beloved
Bruce. I feel a part of this family and I shall probably be right
here the rest of my days! I am no longer young, dear Dick. Last
December 10th, I had my 90th birthday! I am in good health. I
need glasses only for reading. I don't need a hearing aid. I have
a good appetite and I weight 104. that gives you an idea of your
cousin Rose... I never get over thinking of the Ormsby family!
What happy times my dear Bruce and I enjoyed with dear Grace and
Scott. You three boys were so lively and we loved seeing you in
that comfortable home! Your lovely mother, Grace, we loved dearly.
What a wonderful person she was!.. this happy family consists
of Bruce Jr., now in his early 60's - Naomi, his lovely wife,
and a husky 18-year old grandson Frederie Bruce! Fred, as we call
him and I are great pals. He is in his last year at the Seeger
School here in New York City. College, we hope, in the fall but
he college has not yet been decided... Oh, how I want news of
you, dear Dick, and your family. We cousins must no lose touch
with each other. The Ormsbys are my dear, dear relatives! I know
your Braddie passed away some time ago. I have never known what
caused his death. He was a talented person. So, dear Cousin Dick,
please send me news I want so much... I had a little hard luck
recently. I turned too quickly a this writing table, fell off
my chair on to the hard floor! A broken right hip was the result!
A fine surgeon did a beautiful job of setting the broken hip and
I walk better than ever. It was my bank account that suffered.
The surgeon's fee was $2500. then there was the hospital bill
and several $400 bills. I am so glad of my good recovery! I don't
think you have ever know my list of broken bones. I have had enough
- begining with both legs broken when I was about four - run over
by a run-away horse and buggy as I was playing with a new pail
and shovel in the street in front of the Emery home in Kansas
City. When I was about ten, I tried to climb an apple tree the
way my brother Charlie could! Rosie fell, of course, and left
arm broken at the elbow. In my early teens I tried to ride a boy's
big bike: the front wheel went into a rut - of course Rosie had
a hard fall! - result - a broken right collar bone; then walking
along a rocky path with my father, I tripped on a rock, fell,
right wrist broken. Then only a few month ago - the right hip
broken! you can be sure, dear cousin Dick, that I don't want any
more broken bones. I am so grateful for this recent fine recovery...
This is a busy family of cousins, dear Dick, Bruce Jr. has just
finished the manuscript of his next book. It has just been turned
in to his publisher this is Bruce Jr.'s 12th book, all about New
York state and this big busy town! I am hoping it will sell well.
Naomi, Bruce Jr.'s lovely wife, does all those learned book reviews
for the NewYorker Magazine. They pay her a goodly sum for her
hard work. As I mentioned, young Fred is still busy with school
days! He does not have the talent for writing as his parents have
- and you know what a fine writer my devoted Bruce was! Have you
ever happened to see his latest book - his autobiography, called
Five Million words Later. I am sure you would enjoy it... as for
Cousin Rosie, I just live along. Oh, I help with some of the household
chores - take good care of my pleasant bed room. I do a lot of
reading for these young Blivens have sooo many books. I am a great
old letter writer and that takes time and energy. I keep a list
of letters written so that one person will not get all my chit-chat!
This letter will be the 464th I have written in the last several
weeks. My desk is crowded with letters to be answered, Oh, I had
so many beautiful letters from dear friends when my beloved Bruce
passed away. I am trying to get every one acknowledged!... Dear
cousin Dick, how delighted I shall be to get a word from you.
I am using the only address I have for you and I hope this letter
reaches you. You may be living in an entirely different place.
It has been sooo long since I have heard from you. I feel quite
at home here with these busy Blivens. I cold not be better treated,
my considerate son, Bruce Jr., helps me solve all my problems
- not that I have many! I am as you may guess, a home body! I
don't explore this Big town. I just try to be a happy member of
this fine family... Oh, how I shall welcome news of you and your
fine family. I am fond of my dear Ormsby cousins and I never want
to lose track of them! My Bruce and I dearly loved your beautiful
mother, our beloved Grace, and our lively cousin Scott. So, dear
Dick, any news from you will have a hearty welcome! I hope I shall
hear soon and can forget how long it has been that we haven't
been in touch.
You can be sure I send tons of cousinly love, admiration and appreciation. Oh, word from my Richard Ormsby will be sooo welcome, says your devoted
Cousin Rosie Bliven.