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Harvey Pekar: Getting Old


Harvey Pekar
WKSU commentator Harvey Pekar is feeling his age. But as much as he worries how aging will affect his quality of life, he's more concerned about his favorite cousin.
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I was looking at some videotape shot of me at the Cannes Film Festival last May and, I'll tell you, I'm not only getting old, but looking like I'm getting old. There are all these turkey wrinkles in my neck and I'm practically bald. I fall down a lot more often than I used to also.

On top of that my memory fails me sometimes these days. I'm not too happy about the fact that I've got nowhere to go but downhill physically, but there's nothing to do but accept it and try to take care of myself so I don't slip too fast. But I've got this cousin who's in worse shape than me that way. She's almost eighty now, and she's got some kind of dementia.

When I came back from California recently I had eighteen messages on my telephone answering machine. Close to half of them were from her, asking me to give her a call because she felt lonely and isolated. Each call indicated she wasn?t sure whether she made similar previous calls to me. She'd say things like, "I can't remember whether I put a message like this on your machine or not."

When I did get home I called her right away and she was confused. She'd keep on asking me where she could see American Splendor, and I would tell her when it opened in Cleveland and she would go to mark the date on her calendar only to find she'd marked it previously. She keeps on repeating things over and over, not remembering that she'd said them before.

She was born in Poland and came to the U.S. when she was thirteen. Before she got married she lived with her parents, brother, and sister in the upstairs flat of a two-flat house, right above my family. She and her sister use to take care of me when I was a kid. They treated me real well, even to the point of spoiling me.

She sometimes expressed a lot of nostalgia for Poland, which kind of surprised me because we were Jewish and Jews didn't get treated very well over there. I remember her showing me an autobiography she'd written in junior high school. It was really beautiful and she let me use it years later as the basis of a comic book story I wrote about her. She didn't know why I was making such a big deal about it. I guess she never realized what a sensitive author she was.

I've known her all my life and she's been close to me. I used to go over to her house sometimes to discuss my problems. She always had me over on Passover.

When I spoke to her on the phone, she said that she wants me to call her because talking to me makes her feel good. Believe me, it feels good that I can make at least one person a bit happier. So, I'm thinking that I'll call her every day from now on and hope it makes her feel a little better.

Related Links & Resources
Harvey Pekar's web site

American Splendor movie web site

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