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.”