Sunday, September 16, 2007
Had a dream last night about my former friend, Terry Burr, who died of cancer not long ago. In my dream, he was alive and giving me the kind of crap he usually did, bless his heart. That put me in mind of two other long-time friends dead of cancer of something-or-the-other: Ron Caviani and Audree O'Connell. At least the latter lived into their 70's and didn't give me any crap. Terry was only 66. But he lived longer than another acquaintance, Steve Reutlinger, who dropped dead of a heart attack at 58 whilst living on the streets almost. Terry was surrounded by friends and family but suffered; Steve was estranged from family and friends but never knew what hit him. Who was the luckier? You make the call. No replay.
I'm at the age, of course, when those I've known for a long time are dying. What to do about that? How to feel? What does it say to me? The California writer William Saroyan said that he knew we all had to die, but that he had hoped god would make an exception in his case.
Didn't work. He died, sure enough. No exceptions, apparently.
And our daughters' godparents, the Snyders, died a number of years ago, leaving a big void in the lives of the four of us. Evelyn died first, swearing and howling as a result of dementia--at the end, she was a person we never knew, nor did her husband or her children. Nor us. And Keith just fell asleep in his chair and died one night, after his Evelyn was gone. He didn't like getting out of his clothes and going to bed. Can't say I blame him. He was over 90--I forget the exact number--but it doesn't matter, does it?
So why am I reviewing Italian, a language I studied over 40 years ago? I'm going to Italy, I think, in January, staying with a former colleague who now runs a travel service from there, and living there happily.
Why do I f****** bother? I'm even thinking of going to the local community college and enrolling in their most advanced class just to practice. Why?!? All I want to do is live somewhere else and write . . .
(My favorite line comes now) . . .
Damned if I know.
It's possible that this is a way of putting off the Big Sleep just a bit; of staying alive and active, speaking Their Language in Their Country. Hot Damn. There's not much any more fun and rewarding than that. Except rehearsing great music with a good group . . .
It's a way to stave off death, of course, to feel accomplished in some form other than a former or current career. I recognize that. It's also personal pride; I recognize that, too. I'm very good at personal pride, by the way. Hoo-Boy!!
And what else am I going to do? I must admit it is hard to supplant German with Italian--I learned the former last, and the latter over 40 years ago. Ma posso anche parlare la lingua, malgrado del fatto che Tedesco e la lingua che ho imparato piu tarde che Italiano. (Sospira . . . )
We are all dying daily. What are we going to do about that? Hang in there. Be what we are. Do what pleases us, I guess.