While I’m certain this sort of sad diminishment befalls every aging gentleman and -woman, and even those who once held modest position in the town’s day, I am beginning to suspect, too, that in my case it’s not only the blur of time and modern life’s general expectation of senescence, but rather the enduring and immutable fact of what I am, if not who; the simple constancy of my face.
In Chapter 10, Doc Hata sets out for the Ebbington Center Mall in his Mercedes, intending to visit the clothing store Sunny manages. As he drives through Bedley Run’s business district on his way out of town, the spirit of industriousness and commerce that typically lifts his mood gets undercut when he notices a for sale sign in the window of Sunny Medical Supply. Suddenly realizing that the store he built through hard work over long years would no longer serve the Bedley Run community, Doc Hata senses his personal legacy coming to an end. As he sits in his car, he feels insubstantial and compares himself to a ghost who has visited the town for too long. In other words, Doc Hata feels like he’s disappearing. This sense of disappearance gets amplified shortly thereafter when Doc Hata thinks about the cards he received in the mail from several friends and acquaintances after he returned from the hospital. He notes that the number of cards he receives during the holidays has diminished in recent years, which has made him feel like he’s becoming invisible.
This quotation arises as the culmination of both moments in which Doc Hata senses the diminishment of his reputation. Doc Hata reflects that his gradual loss of relevance in Bedley Run may result from the usual dynamics of the social world. Every “gentleman and -woman” who is lucky enough to grow old experiences some degree of diminishment as their body begins to fail them and they relinquish whatever position they might have held in their community. Yet Doc Hata also suspects that his situation may be different. Rather than deriving from the common expectation of the diminishment of aging, Doc Hata imagines that his experience of diminishment relates to his position specifically. In one sense, Doc Hata refers here to his “enduring” presence on the community over the past thirty years, which has made him so familiar that others now take him for granted. But in another sense, Doc Hata refers to the “immutable” nature of his personality, which he spends much of the book trying to understand. Since Doc Hata himself remains unsure who he really is, even the reasons for his diminishment remain a mystery to him.