Y’all, I am so busy, and so stressed, and I desperately want to write but you’re going to have to put up with this mélange of nonsense instead.
One thing I’ve learned as the situation with my dad intensifies is that there’s a secret club out there, and it’s got a lot of members.
The first time I noticed was last December, when I called the storage facility where my folks rent a unit. They’d lost and replaced a credit card but forgotten to give the facility the new number, and I was calling to change the number, and make sure their stuff hadn’t been sold off. The owner—a cheerful woman who certainly has plenty of experience dispassionately selling off the contents of non-paying customers—remembered my dad, and was relaxed and helpful about changing the payment information.
“I’m going through the same with my dad,” she said, shortly before our conversation was done.
When I picked up the contents of his locker at his health club, I heard the same thing. And from my doctor, when she found out what was happening. And from the guy at the bank. And countless people on my writing group. Helpful people, who are kind and accommodating, and when they say “My father/my mother/my spouse,” their eyes are filled with sympathy for you, and no matter how professional everybody is, there’s a moment of shared misery. Because it’s awful, in all of its permutations, and there are too many of us in this club.
My taste in art tends to be extreme: order or disorder, with little room for anything else. On the one hand, I like geometry and order (think Mondrian). On the other, there’s this, purchased this weekend at a local art festival:
I love this artist. She’s about as un-Mondrian as they come. She sells clocks and small pieces of furniture and plaques. And weird fish.
Maybe I’ll call him Piet.
Boston is beautiful.
I mean, it’s not, really. Cities aren’t. There’s grime and noise and cars and usually trash, in every neighborhood. But they are individual and alive, and Boston is an old friend. We spent nearly every weekend there when I was a kid: the Museum of Science, Faneuil Hall, Lechmere, Harvard Square.* Some of it was small-child tedium, but so much of it was fun and comfortable and lovely.
My parents moved into the city in 1982. Tomorrow, they’re moving out. Once their home is sold, I’ll have no reason to go in.
Life is a long sequence of farewells.
*Yes, I know Harvard Square is in Cambridge, but it was part of our Trips To The City.
At this point, it seems pretty clear we’re two countries. As with most things like this, it’s been true for a while, it’s just now so stark there’s no avoiding it anymore. I think about all the political warning signs from my youth, and the trouble is when an election would happen and suddenly my civil rights weren’t on the chopping block anymore, there was a tendency to think “Phew! We fixed it!”
We never fixed anything.
I remind myself that progress has always been non-linear. But wow, it’s exhausting. And I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat for the young people in the back: don’t start thinking this is a problem that’s going to age away. We thought that when I was in college, back in the 1980s. Conservatism isn’t confined to older people. (Nor are all older people conservatives.) Don’t let anyone tell you this is a problem of demographics; it’s not. If anything, I’d say it’s more a problem of economics, both micro and macro. These days, with climate change rearing its ugly head? There’s going to be more scarcity and more fear.
Maybe we never fix anything. Maybe all we do is lean against that wall and hope against hope that there are enough of us to keep it from crashing down on our heads. The trials change, but the fight doesn’t. And it never ends.
Jesus Christ Superstar came out when I was six years old. I remember the brown-and-gold album cover. I don’t remember the music all that well, except the few songs we sang in chorus, and in fact most of it’s about as interesting to me as any classical opera.
But a few months back The Kid put some John Legend on in the car, and I remembered the live broadcast of JCS that he did with Sarah Bareilles (among others), and one day driving home from Boston in hellish rush hour traffic I streamed the recording.
Still not an opera fan, but the live audience definitely gave it an energy the old recording lacked. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t listening to “Superstar” on repeat on those long drives home. If I die and end up reincarnated, I kind of hope I come back as Brandon Victor Dixon.
I’m pretty consistently on the Mondrian end with my music. I like structure. Rhythm. Repetition. Evolution. But there has to be heart as well. So many of the most famous classical pieces (looking at you, “Four Seasons”) are so precise they lose all passion. Beethoven. Now that was a guy who knew how to write passion.
There’s almost always music in my head, although that’s rarely EDM. Songs will loop, sometimes for days or weeks. It’s soothing, usually, and these days I’m constantly grateful for it.
Looping “Strange Times” a lot lately. I’ve loved the album since it came out, but it was only a few months ago I realized this song was about drug addiction. And oh my God, most of the album is about drug addiction.
I’m not naive. Really. I’m just situationally dense.
*I actually love that they do this. They take shots at all kinds of things, but somehow it manages to be gentle and good-humored. And in fairness, Jason’s EDM is indeed awful.
Tomorrow I have to help two people I love dearly do something they desperately don’t want to do.
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being unable to keep the people I love from experiencing pain.
But one of the things I’ve learned since becoming a parent is that sometimes things Just Have To Get Done.
I’m tired, and scattered, and sad. And what they’re going through is so much worse, and all I can do is be there, and try to make it as gentle as possible.
We never fix anything. But we keep on holding up the wall.