Sunday, August 18, 2019

Grief time

"An altered state time, deserving of gentleness" (Ellen). My mother-in-law and I watch television: part of a documentary on Woodstock, some news, a bit of the pre-season football game at Aloha Stadium. I ask if she's interested in it, and she says nothing is of interest.

My daughter is sweeping broken glass from her new dorm room floor. We witness the green broom-handle on Facetime.

The New York Times book section tells me the personal essay is dead; the personal and the political have been wrenched too far apart. We are who we construct on the internet, the selves that we don't recognize when they're described to us. Wisdom is nothing that is surface, like a screen we know to be flat, except when moving pictures offer us false perspective. The car in an old film moves across the painting of a landscape and gets nowhere except closer to the end of a story.

The Stoics couldn't anticipate the end of introspection, or its quickening. Nor could they foretell social media's flattening of self into photograph and caption. Or the man insulted by the president for being fat, who says he loves the president, "the best thing ever to happen to our country." The proud boys in a Portland park initiate a new member by punching him with bare fists until he falls and then applaud their own good work. "Don't blame us for creating civilization," one chants.

Meaning decamps. Wisdom is some consolation, but we know it already. Death is still mystery, no matter how many books you read. My father-in-law's car trunk stinks of sunscreen; there's a box with some rope in it, a couple of dog leashes, two walking sticks. The last hike was taken, probably up the jagged side of Makapu`u where he'd recently seen a couple making love and dragged his barking dogs away.

He said he was dizzy in his wheelchair, even as we took him home. In the lobby, he weighed himself, found he hadn't lost weight despite the hospital food. His wife bought the new meds. Baby aspirin. He walked up the steps at home, both hands on the rails, refusing my arm. He walked up the steps and into the house and I turned to drive away.

My daughter has finished sweeping up the broken glass from the bulbs she hung on a string that fell in the night. She's alone in her new dorm. The soccer girls told her Ted Bundy had gone to their college for a semester. She says she's bored. B. advises her to get pen and paper and to draw something for the blank walls, beside her new and artificial plants.

Stephen Colbert says if we are grateful for this life, we suffer our losses. He tells this to Anderson Cooper, whose brother died by suicide. He says this the week Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, if indeed he killed himself, and no one suffered for anything but his having lived.

The thrush screams when I walk my dog. Roosters call from the gully behind our townhouse. Sirens stream down Kahekili on a Sunday morning. I read Seneca's Letters from a Stoic, awaiting the news of a dear friend's death.

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