The fact is I became despite all efforts at obstruction, eighty years old. As on other age-based occasions (seventy-five, fifty or even twent-ynine which verged so fearfully on thirty), I adjusted. I began to like those years, defending them, explaining their different energies. I don't have exactly the same attitude to either the word eighty or the fact of eighty. For some reason I don't know how to take the appropriate authoritative attitude. More is expected of me than when I was only seventy.

Anyway women and men have annoyingly started writing memoirs at fifty or earlier. They've scarcely experienced life and only a half moment of history. Here lam nearly a full moment of knowing. Even so, 1 try at a certain unbelieved modesty. But on public occasions I am. often questioned pretty thoroughly. The questions are usually important, not to be mocked.

So I began to answer in my own way. In the end this "tidbit" as it has been labeled, will not become a novel, most likely a short story, possibly a poem., though those questions surely deserve more space and time than I am accustomed to give. —G.P.

One day she fell flat on her face right out of American middle age into amazing age itself, oldness, a condition she thought she'd like if it could last as long as childhood had. But already, the days themselves were shorter, a wintering fact.

Then, people assuming wisdom began to ask her lots of questions. Some were slipped under the door; some were mailed. Close friends phoned or faxed. For some reason no one e-mailed. These are some of the questions:

Can lifelong hatred based on two incidents in early family life be reversed? The writer didn't say whether she or he was the hater or the hated. The answer was no, never! She told this to her friend Alicia, a mediator. Alicia, who had spent many years studying, said yes, but she blushed.

Another question: Is passionate love worth the volcanic disruption of all the lovely little cities of friendship and desire? The writer didn't admit to being the lover or a rejected resident of the little destroyed cities, but probably thought the formal, maybe arcane style would assure an answer.

The most important question was: How come you, with all your political study groups and fancy theories, never managed to end war on earth, let alone the arms trade of your own country. What a question! She found the same questions in seven envelopes put exactly the same way. Did that make the request less legitimate? In that concern, part of the answer can be seen.

. . . and so on