My Friend Matt
My friend Matthew Shanahan, born in 1917, was 88 when I first met him in 2005. He was one of those handsome bald men, with delicate, rather aristocratic features, high-colored skin with few wrinkles, and bright blue eyes through which he could make out only the dimmest shades of grey or glints of the most glaring light.
Matt was blind, the victim of retinitis pigmentosa, which ran in his family. The disease began to affect him in his fifties, leaving him with scarcely any sight by his sixties and progressing to total blindness. Deaf in his right ear, he wore a hearing aid in his left. Slender, perhaps 5’10” or so before age had bent him forward, he nonetheless had a natural elegance, and wore clothes well; each day these were chosen for him by one of the attendants at Friedman Place, the Jewish home for the blind on the northside of Chicago into which he had moved a short while before I met him.
About the Author
Joseph Epstein is the author, most recently, of Essays in Biography, which will be published this autumn by Axios Press. His essay “Old Age & Other Laughs” appeared in the March issue.