Kellie Schmitt's The Old Man Isn T There Anymore

499 Words2 Pages
Travel Writer Kellie Schmitt wrote the essay The Old Man Isn’t There Anymore when she lived in China for two years. She writes about the death of a neighbor and a case of mistaken identity.
It begins with the news that a family in her communal apartment building has experienced a loss in their family. Her confusion with the layout of the building, the identity of her neighbors and their connection with each other, and her halting progress with the Chinese language sets the stage for her confused progress through this strange social world. Despite her fantasies of close friendships and kitchen tea parties with the locals, her repeated attempts to instigate a friendship with any of her neighbors were met with amusement or cold rebuffs.
It was with persistence that she was
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She wanted to make a connection with them, and leapt to the conclusion that the man who had nodded to her, a gift which she repaid with a brownie, must be the man they were mourning. His death was her ticket of admission.
Again, she approaches the situation with a gift, this time of sympathy flowers. When language fails, presents cannot be looked down upon. The family accepts them and invites her to the funeral.
When she attends, she is embarrassed by her own weeping. She is homesick, and has been making attempts to belong for so long, and this reminds her of what she left behind. The funeral ended at the crematorium, a symbolic act of immolation. It’s possible that her unease at this part of the ceremony is related to the dislike which Westerners have about facing mortality, but it could also be that the reminder of the limitation of time made her shallow attempts at connecting with others seem ludicrous. When the funeral guests leave, they toss their black armbands into a fireplace. This further symbolism of letting go contradicts the internal tension of forcing
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