Up the steep hill from my house, a neighbor struggles to move a large section of tree that has just been sawn into sections. He pushes hard to move it across the slope, but he wants it on the lot line, so he turns to face downhill. At this point an invisible force tugs the heavy log out of his grip, and off it goes, hurtling down the slope.
Right toward my house.
I 'm sitting in my back room, getting ready to practice the bassoon. I'm not very good, and I have a crappy old plastic band instrument, but I'm getting better. Isn't that where satisfaction lies? I reach for the instrument on its stand next to the rear window and notice a large log right before it crashes through my window.
I die everyday. Often my killer is a dead tree that decides to share the wealth by falling on me just as I walk next to it. Many other times it has happened in traffic because there are so many murderous drivers out there.
I will admit to having killed myself a few times, although I am never really sure exactly how it happens and am not brave enough to find out.
I am telling all of this to my nephew Matthew (the Barry one) who is sitting with me at a small round table in a darkened basement den where we watch a baby sleep. Matthew is with me in, shall I say, a spiritual way since it is almost a week since he was buried. Since I helped bear his pall to the grave and shovel in the dirt.
"Matthew," I say, "I wish you were physically here to hear me share my nonsense. You had a smile and a kindness that really were quite solid and tolerant, particularly of avuncular nonsense. I bet you didn't know that. I bet you didn't know the power of youth to inspire the old, simply by your being, simply by being watched in the process of growing old yourself."
The spiritual sense, while real, leaves much to be desired. Matthew is in no situation to give his winning smile--as I'm sure he would--but I visualize that he does in the same way that I visualize numbers when I count in a foreign language. In other words vaguely and with great effort.
Okay, yeah, I know. Avuncular nonsense.
I'm telling Matthew about the service. "The rabbi got you right when he said you loved sports but you always wanted most of all to be sure everyone had a good time and enjoyed the game, even those on the other team, which your coaches didn't understand." I tell him about the italics and how they are meant to indicate that he was wise in a way we attribute to sages but do not to our best teachers, our children.
The spiritual sense, while real, leaves much to be desired. Grief is as much physical as anything, and right now I'm asserting with tears the reality of being the only physically sentient one among the three of us, what with the baby sleeping and Matthew being that self-contained, benign watcher he always was.
Is. Was. I don't know, Matthew. Is. Yes, is.
[Your birthday is after all the day after Bloomsday. What's that? Wander the Elysian Fields and report back.]
But memory: isn't it just a spiritual sense? And here Matthew suggests: what is the stone that the builders rejected? (Matthew, the bar mitzvah.) "Do you mean the cornerstone?" Yes, that's what he means. "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord." Now Matthew is the psalmist.
I found one picture. It's not much. But there's also this pipe tune--Flowers of the Forest--a funeral march. Once you get to know it, nothing else comes close to suiting such an occasion, because it's just naked sound dedicated to a transcendental sadness.
"Declaring the works of the Lord."
Sounds right, Matthew. Like gravity, bringing that huge log down the slope to crash into my house.