I’m hardly the first person to have done it. Archeologists have found words written on bowls, linen, and papyrus in 3000 year old Egyptian tombs wherein the living asked the dearly departed to help solve a problem, deal with grief (the drama of trauma) or to be comforted or given absolution. However, it’s an acquired taste to write letters to the dead—ex lovers, a beloved relative, the boy I knew in 2nd grade that died of leukemia, the wildly wicked friend that burnt her candle at both ends and went out in flames…
I’m that peculiar person that several blogs back, wrote about All the Words I’ve Loved and Lost. Losing loved ones is so much worse; it’s no wonder we’ve developed all sorts of coping skills. These days my proclivity may not seem so odd, nor does the French plus ca change expression (the more things change, the more it stays the same). This is despite the many folks saying the world post CV19 will never be the same. The same what?
You be the judge. This letter was written 20 years ago to a dear friend that died suddenly, way too young, of a brain tumor. We may be acquiring new habits in 2020 like temporary FOO (Fear of Others) or wince if called a Couch Patriot, shut in, or Kung Flu Fighter–deep down, we remain us. We are Judy Garland singing a letter to Clark Gable You Made Me Love You, prideful Mr. Darcy penning an appeal, or Bogie trying to read a rain soaked letter from a lost love. We are a despairing, but determined Jonathan Harker writing to Mina from a drafty room in Dracula’s castle, and Henry the Time Traveler writing to wife Clare that “I am being buoyed by time, floating to the surface like a fat swimmer. My love for you has more density than I do. Time is nothing…”
Try it. Write a letter to someone that died recently or a long time ago. Send it out into the universe. Sorry, there’s no wifi or Western Union in the Absolute Elsewhere. You may find, however, a dead letter hospice, where the priority is all about quality of life, and obtaining the emotional and spiritual support needed to recover a sense of saneness, a shred of serendipity.
PS dear fellow solitude lovers-quit laughing so hard at the extroverts angst.
Letter to a Dead Friend: This year so far is akin to the feeling one gets when ripping off a bandaid—it’s passing tearingly fast (it’s better that way), ouches more than just a bit, and reminds me past wounds leave interesting scars. Why’d you have to die without a goodbye? I guess old bugger death caught you by surprise, in the form of a mad woodpecker that banged and hammered in your head. I’m sorrier than I can say. Until I can let you go, do you mind if we just resume that last conversation? I’ll take your silence and stillness for a yes. What was it writer and columnist Michael Ventura said—something about life being action and movement and death being—absolute stillness. I’ll catch you up with 2000…
The year clicked 000, gas prices climbed, 10 inches of snow piled up on the deck, and we “kicked it up a notch,” a fav expression of Emeril’s, who runs a cooking school in N’Oleans. We did our best to catch up on sleep, and technology, and rumors from far reaches of the globe. At 7 am on New Year’s Eve, we began watching reveler’s celebrate the new millennium around the world. At 4 am-New Year’s Day–I finally wrestled the remote control from someone elses too wakeful hands, & turned off the bloody TV. Hawaii and Fuji were the only places where we didn’t see Y2000 being welcomed!
Having been born in the year of the dragon, I celebrated the Chinese New Year auspiciously, and welcomed this fire-breathing foe of legend. The dragon is born with full ancestral memory, and is the only imaginary creature in the zodiac. For my birthday I got a miniature abacus—proving that it’s the ‘little things in life that count!’ Am I the only one that doesn’t crave mega quantities of nostalgia and renewal during the holidays–or turkey and tinsel? It seems to be important to get in touch with your inner child or failing that—to bow to children in general. I think that’s Jean Shepard’s message in A Christmas Tale and Dicken’s message in A Christmas Carol—can be summed up by saying it’s never too late to win back the delusions of our childhood. The message in Miracle on 34th Street is more realistic: “we should believe in miracles—if and only if we get our wish.” Personally I’ll remain cynical, for next to a circus–ain’t nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit.
I visited West Coast branch of family in February. My niece amazed me with her ability to memorize vast quantities of technical information, songs, poems, and gestures that she’d learned in school. My other niece is becoming a captivating red headed vixen. She has winking and throwing kisses down to an art. Their mom recently switched jobs, and is now with a company she likes, though we have both concluded that while a rose is a rose is a rose—work is a thorn. I must sadly report I missed another Paddy’s Day due to a major inconvenience—work.
May, 2000 The season I like least of all hasn’t officially yet arrived and already we are overheating—a distillery in Kentucky burnt to the ground, as did 17,000+ barrels of fine, aged 101 proof Wild Turkey bourbon. A fire set purposefully in the beautiful hillsides of New Mexico has left the area charred and blackened. Bill Gates, I’m sure, is burned over the Government’s decision to slice and dice Microsoft. I made a medical discovery–that I liked people best homeopathically—that is—in small doses.
In the high tech environment (where I work), we’ve gone from talking about kilobytes, megabytes, and terabytes to nanobytes. This reminds me that sometimes work really bytes! The LOVE virus and its many derivations has wrecked havoc on millions of computers. Isn’t that one of the problems with IT—no matter how advanced it may be, it only takes a nanosecond of human stupidity to bring down an entire system. I could always switch jobs and become a Starbucks barrista. Last weekend they had a sign out front saying they were hiring CLOSERS (people willing to work the late shift). The wind knocked a letter off and I nearly made coffee foam come out of my nose as I reread the sign: Starbucks is hiring LOSERS. What’s the difference between a wife and a job? The job still sucks after ten years.
When I’m able to pause and reflect, my thoughts turn to trying to analyze what I’ve recently experienced, like the passing of my father-in-law. Someone said death is only a new, undiscovered horizon—only limited by the line of our sight. In the movie MEET JOE BLACK, Anthony Hopkins, at the end of his brief birthday speech says, almost in a whisper, “Isn’t it all over in an instant?” No sarcasm intended—we barely blink and offspring are grown, lush green forests are replaced with yuppie neighborhoods suffused with sameness, and the face that returns our stare looks as if small sparrows have been trampling the area around our eyes and our mouth. Einstein said there were only two ways to live life—as if nothing were special—or as if everything was. It’s not easy making everything special. How do we mere humans decide what’s memorable and what’s not? A favorite cynic of mine said there’s birth, there’s death and inbetween there’s─maintenance. And why do elephants drink? Could it be to forget? Well, no doomsday daiquiri’s for me!
As I gear up for the long, but not long enough weekend, I am feeling festive. Monday, I’m be hosting a German themed picnic, complete with a fralein singing German drinking song ditties and playing the accordion. I doubt anyone will be wearing lederhosen, though we might need an umbrella or two. Better dampness than the burning blazes of a summer afternoon in Virginia.
Everyone who had a physical address received a census form recently. It wasn’t very appealing reading. Under race I put “HUMAN.” If Dr. Seuss had designed the form, it might have been more palatable. It might have read:
|Are you person one or person two?
Person Red or Person Blue?
Do you live all by yourself?
Do you live with someone else?
Do you own the place where this was sent?
Or are you just a poor slob paying rent?
|How old were you on April First?
Just when is your real date of birth?
Are you Japanese or Filipino?
Two-thirds white or half Latino?
Samoan aunt? Hawaiian Dad?
Have you an uncle from Trinidad?
African or black/ Which is it?
Indo-Euro Asian or pigmy midget?
|Answer all and send this out
So we can get a proper count
This we’ll put in our dossier
Somehow we’ll make you pay
We know who you are/where you live
We’re the Gov’t; ante up and give!
June, 2000 I just finished watching the 5 tape miniseries Captains and the Kings, which originally aired on TV in the late 1970’s. It’s one of those dynasty pieces about three generations of an Irish/American family. It’s based on a Taylor Caldwell book, loosely resembling a family not unlike the Kennedy’s. What passed for aristocracy was still in power in America at the turn of the century. People handed out calling cards (today it’s business cards) and had a somewhat different manner of deportment, but it’s not that different today.
The aristocracy lives, and is still propelled by money and power. One can buy a title, property, and grow a name through spreading the manure of money. I’ve always thought (like Emily Dickinson) aristocracy was based on intelligence, talent and something I call gumption─nothing more or less than these traits. Emily wrote: The pedigree of honey, does not concern the bee; a clover, any time, to it, is Aristocracy. I’d rather cultivate a sense of humor, develop the imagination and sense of the exotic/erotic, be rebellious and work on aesthetics (expand the realm of what is beautiful and interesting). That’s a piece of my philosopher’s stone for turning the lead of this world into gold.
August/October 2000 This summer, a professional landscaping company terraced the backyard with Pennsylvania flagstone, and planted half a dozen trees. We now have less to mow, but much more to weed wack around. I crossed four leaf clovers with poison ivy and am hoping to have a ‘rash of good luck.’ In October, I took a forgettable business trip to San Diego, Nixon’s fav city. Someone said it has the personality of a paper cup. I agree. My bro met me in San Diego and we drove in his big truck (a man and his truck—it’s a beautiful thing) to Mexico to search for perfect hot massage stones. After a few hours hard work, we had lunch at an outdoor cantina. I had spit roasted meat, piled onto a soft taco loaded with fresh veggies, hot sauce and squeezes of lime. It was the best mex food ever! Unlike my experiences in Taco Bell—I didn’t run for the border. I recall how much you loved hot, spicy food. Is it hot where you are?
Sadly, the magazine GEORGE was sold to Bon Appetit and will now be called GORGE. Newly discovered diaries of the poet Sylvia Plath were‘unearthed.’ Experts now attribute both her genius and her suicide to PMS. We PMS sufferers are encouraged. That plane you admired so much, the Concorde crashed after take-off from Paris; over 100 people died. Quel domage. I’m beginning to understand death is a destination we all share. Oh, and in the UK, folks are freaking out about Mad Cow disease. Can you imagine?
It was on a Monday, that pothole day in the week of life, I received an invitation to hear world famous author Colin Wilson—a time favorite author—give a weekend lecture in College Park, MD. He’s written over 80 books—most I’ve read multiple times, and he’s been a source of inspiration to me for 30 years. We sat and talked for over an hour, and he confirmed what I long suspected—the road to being a successful writer is strewn not with word gems but with the bodies of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t persevere. I made the mistake of buying drinks for the entire bar, but it was worth it. It was magical. I plan to visit him in Cornwall next year. I also hope to quit my job and be writing full time─working only as necessary to provide for bare necessities. Like the retired electrician that gets “delighted,” the musician who gets “denoted,” the cowboy who gets “deranged,” and the judge, who gets “distorted,” I hope that I will become “unmanaged” in 2001.
There’s a partial eclipse of the sun occurring December 25, which will be visible in most of North America. The end of this action packed year is just a couple of dilithium crystals short of a warp drive, as you might say—have said. I still can’t believe you’re dead, past perfect tense, definitely done dancing or whatever that was that you did when certain songs got you locamoting! Let’s do this again soon. Same time next year old friend? That’s when I’ll be interrupting your new eternity of non-living. Until then, I’m snipping this letter thread. Much love, Jo
PS: No, at your Memorial Service your widow wouldn’t play the song Pop Goes the Weasel. I tried my best to convince her.