Posting. For Karen. [UPDATED]

October 8, 2011 at 1:24 am (By Amba)

OK. I’m feeling a weird combination of introverted and extroverted lately that sort of jumps right over the blog.  I’m either completely alone (save for cats, a significant exception) at home, or running around with friends.  The proportion of days doing each has lately been about 1:3 or 1:4.  It’s always struck me that when the weather starts to get cold a lot of traveling, visiting, and socializing goes on, as if we had an instinct to connect with each other before winter isolates us and freezes us in place.  I wonder whether another ice age is trying to start, what the sun is up to, and whether anthropogenic global warming is just confusing the issue, making the transition more turbulent.

Also, now that “the party’s over” (and I have not crashed; if anything I feel launched), I’m more aware than ever before of the growing dark and cold.  This period last year was J’s dying time.  Strangely, I didn’t even think about that last spring when I set the date for the party—all I thought about was that enough but not too much time would have passed, the weather would still be good for travel, and September 19 was a significant date for him, the date of the Jack Dempsey tournament in Toronto in probably 1949.  And I didn’t think about the aftermath of the party except to anticipate that I would feel released into my new life.  (Which I do, but with a difference:  being at the party with so many people who never really knew J sick brought back his healthy vitality to me, and the blank-slate feeling of unfamiliarity about being back in New York, as if starting from scratch, is gone; I feel reconnected to the past.)  Somehow I missed the obvious point that the party was September 19 and J got shingles and started to die September 30.  Funny how we know what we’re doing even when we don’t.

So I’ll copy what I just wrote in my notebook, and then I have to do one of my wee-hours workouts—”kicking the devil’s ass,” a friend calls it; if you don’t, he kicks yours.  This penance for ever-beguiling sloth is the beginning of my Yom Kippur.  I was all ambitious to learn and say Kaddish for Jacques, the honorary Heeb as Brian Abrams of the late lamented funny magazine (but still website) Heeb called him, and then I couldn’t make head or tail of either the sound files or the transliterations, couldn’t match up the fluent familiar mumbling with the nonsense syllables on the page, most of which seemed skipped or slurred by the pray-ers.  Oh well, it’s more than a little late to start trying to do any of that right.

It’s been striking me a lot how weird and broken-and-mended ALL people are, improbable survivors of improvisation, dodging illness and madness with our daredevil entropy-defying bodies and half-finished minds. Everyone seems to me very exposed, very vulnerable, crossing the brief battlefield of life, dodging bullets for as long as your luck holds.  An awful lot of cancer, autism, depression.  What are we doing wrong?  Or has it always been this way or worse?

I realized with a start this morning that J was only just getting home from the hospital at this time last year.  That his dying period, and therefore its anniversary, was really excruciatingly drawn-out.  For some reason that’s hard to endure, that twilight anniversary.  I want it to be either-or, both-and:  I want him dead and whole, and instead, for the next five or six weeks, I must live with him alive and dying.

UPDATE:  On second thought, think I’ll let the devil kick my ass into bed, and kick his in the morning.

UPDATE 2: Saying Kaddish, in a large Reform synagogue, was comforting but somehow deemphasized in the midst of guided imagery and therapeutic insertions (“I am grateful that I’ve learned to honor my sister-in-law as she divorces my brother”).  Like some Catholics, I also feel that religious language loses most of its mojo in translation.  J had his own very private, idiosyncratic relationship with his Creator (and very Jewish-like in that he had an intimate beef with Him), but all I could think of yesterday was him saying, “Let’s get the fuck out of here and have a hot dog.”

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23 Comments

  1. A said,

    I second your second thought. Kick ass in the morning!

  2. amba12 said,

    And so I did!

  3. Icepick said,

    The mathematician Paul Edros refered to God as the SF, short for Supreme Fascist. Quote: “The SF created us to enjoy our suffering. … The sooner we die, the sooner we defy His plans.” That said, erdos lived until age 83 and spent the last 25 years of his life taking amphetamines in order to get the most out of his time.

    From the Erdos Wiki entry:

    He had his own idiosyncratic vocabulary: he spoke of “The Book”, an imaginary book in which God had written down the best and most elegant proofs for mathematical theorems. Lecturing in 1985 he said, “You don’t have to believe in God, but you should believe in The Book.” He himself doubted the existence of God, whom he called the “Supreme Fascist” (SF).[13] He accused the SF of hiding his socks and Hungarian passports, and of keeping the most elegant mathematical proofs to himself. When he saw a particularly beautiful mathematical proof he would exclaim, “This one’s from The Book!”. This later inspired a book entitled Proofs from THE BOOK.

  4. amba12 said,

    That’s marvelous — he accused God of hiding his socks!! I love it.

    Shouldn’t it have been SS — for Supreme Sadist?

    Crazy Hungarians!

    God, if there is one, kept lavishing a weird kind of favoritism on J, while J unyieldingly insisted that God was full of shit. True, he didn’t die in Russia, but a lot of equally or more blameless people, like his sister, did.

  5. kngfish said,

    Off! To Katz! For at least a hot dog….

  6. Icepick said,

    God, if there is one, kept lavishing a weird kind of favoritism on J, while J unyieldingly insisted that God was full of shit. True, he didn’t die in Russia, but a lot of equally or more blameless people, like his sister, did.

    I appreciate that kind of thought.

  7. A said,

    all I could think of yesterday was him saying, “Let’s get the fuck out of here and have a hot dog.”

    Ha! I’m sorry I never met him. But glad that I have through your writing.
    I was going to say “grateful” but that’s a word I’ll have to let alone for a bit until the divorcing sister-in-law wears off of it.

  8. wj said,

    It strikes me that one of Jesus’ great insights was when he used the analogy of “father” to explain God to his followers. After all, while many people love, admire, and respect their father**, others have a much more problematic relationship.

    **That analogy has always made me believe that Joseph was probably one heck of a guy. And Christianity has made a serious mistake by marginalizing him. But then, my theology has always been a trifle odd….

  9. amba12 said,

    Raising someone else’s kid is one of the hardest things to do. He really is the unsung hero!

  10. karen said,

    :0)– i just walked into this room and found all my favourtie people in it– wow!

    I never knew what Kaddish was until late in high school – via ~Torch Song Trilogy~. I doubt i was ever aware of a parallel love between same sexes& what it meant emotionally. I loved that movie.

    As for the not making …”head or tail of either the sound files or the transliterations, couldn’t match up the fluent familiar mumbling with the nonsense syllables on the page, most of which seemed skipped or slurred by the pray-ers.” … you could still say it w/your heart, which you probably do every day, anyway. Since John has been gone, Allan says prayers every night for his(& his own, in a way) soul. Something very unearthly(or maybe i mean other worldly?)when a strong, silent-type man ~littles~(not to be confused w/~ belittles~)himself before an unseen Almighty on behalf of someone who is no longer here. SF, SS or whatever:0).

    What accent does Dru have in ~Despicable Me~? I really like it, is it Russian?

    As for Joseph… before Mass i meet w/two other gals whom i sing w/to practice beforehand, and one always says our prayer& it’s always so beautiful(she has a way w/words)– and then we ask the help of certain Saints to pray for us(yeah, some of you are skeptics, i know)– and we always ask for St Joseph, protector of families and protector of the Church– to pray for us. We also lugged the big statue of him holding a baby Jesus onto the altar to be beside Mary.

    ps- those statues need to be wiped off sometimes and more often than not– flies love them.

  11. wj said,

    Ah, but was it someone else’s child? IIRC, Hebrew, like
    english, differentiates between “a young woman” and “a virgin”. Latin, however, uses “virgo” for both. So if you take a prophecy which says “a young woman shall concieve” and translate it first into Latin and then into English (or other languages which are similar), you get “virgin birth”! Oh wow, oh wow!

    No doubt someone will reflexively say “But Jesus was the Son of God.” To which one can only respond: What are the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer**? And do you mean it when you say it? If so, then you are the son (or daughter) of God, too.

    Like I said, my theology is a bit odd.

    **”Our Father” for the non-Christians among us.

  12. mockturtle said,

    Gemar chatimah tovah. all!

  13. karen said,

    I guess i always thought that we were God’s children through Christ– the whole Paulian… “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me and you are in Me and therefore– in Him”… kinda thing?

    Your theology is honest:0). Acceptance is hard.

    MockT–huh?

  14. mockturtle said,

    May you be inscribed for good [in the Book of Life]. :-)

  15. mockturtle said,

    Gemar chatimah tovah, all! May you be inscribed for good [in the Book of Life]
    My sister informs me this should be used for Rosh Hashana [New Year] but I think it appropriate for Yom Kippur, as well. So there! ;-) But, then, she knows Hebrew and I don’t.

  16. mileslascaux said,

    Let me know if you want to escape to Lancaster County some weekend. Or places in between.

  17. karen said,

    The closest i’ve gotten to speaking Hebrew was reading 2 books by Chaim Potok. The depth of those books, alone… very dark, IIRC.

  18. karen said,

    :0)- amba, thanks for sharing.
    I hope that the ache dulls w/time.
    I mean the ache for J that you have.

  19. amba12 said,

    Miles: was that invitation intended for me? ‘Cause if it wasn’t, I just might show up anyway!

  20. mileslascaux said,

    yup

  21. amba12 said,

    Karen—I need to slow down, be alone, and feel the ache once in a while. I’m running around an awful lot. :)

  22. karen said,

    I know in our case, it seems our brother isn’t gone, really. And then, wham!!! Some word, some song, some well meaning person mentioning him… maybe the circumstances- or just the void.

    Maybe you are intentionally busy, amba.

  23. Icepick said,

    I need to slow down, be alone, and feel the ache once in a while.

    ….

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