Thursday, March 6, 2014


As your experience with the aging process lurches onward, you begin to see a link between it and Christmas gifts for which you have no taste and even less desire to keep.  No matter how well you prepare for it, age brings surprises and the parasites of unwanted consequences.  In some cases, these consequences reveal their true selves to the point of taking over the personality of their host, turning the host into a curmudgeon or cantankerous pessimist.

Although you do not yourself identify with these sorts, neither can you  blame them for their grouchy persona nor fail to show empathy.  Among other things, they--and you--have reached the state of statistical probability where loss and its compatriot, grief, appear with regularity on the Seniors' Menu of the restaurant of Life.

What began in childhood, as the loss through forgetfulness or some expected attrition, moves forward to include friends moving away or the reverse, which is you moving away from friends. The loss of an ice cream cone no longer in contact with your hand, the ever so momentary lapse in your grip of a helium-filled balloon. Then follows the death of childhood pets. A small turtle. A salamander ordered from an ad on the back of a comic book.  A cherished pocket knife.

Perhaps a grandparent follows suit; in your own case, it was the witness of the loss of a classmate from drowning, followed by the death of another classmate from illness, then a grandparent.  But by that time, you'd seen the implications all about you of the kinds of loss that produce grief.

How old, in fact, were you when you lost count because there was so much of it wherever you looked?  And perhaps even now, you haven't lost count.  Perhaps you are still counting.  Perhaps you have reached the plateau where you are in effect playing catch-up, discovering losses and things to grieve some months after their actual departure.

Only today, you mention an acquaintance quite on the border of being a friend, speaking of him in context with his paintings.  "Ah, you haven't heard then?"

"Heard what?"  you say, but you already know from the context.

"January.  January 16, I think."

By this time in the arc of aging and loss, there are connective tissues, unanticipated lines drawing you from one to the next.  Thinking about this recent news of this painter's death, you recall the penultimate time you'd spent any time with him, which was at a birthday gala for one of your closest and dearest friends.  This reminds you of the times when, during your years as a smoker, you had occasion to take shirts, sweaters, and jackets to specialists who called themselves re-weavers, hopeful they could mend an unintended rent in the fabric.

Your maid, seeing the L.L.Bean dog bed next to your reading chair, leaves you a note wondering, "Ya busca una mascota?" This cannot help remind you that yes, you are looking for a dog and that you are fast approaching a year in which that dog bed has been unoccupied except in your memory.

You think of The Buddha from time to time and in various ways.  True enough, he abandoned a princely kingdom.  Even truer, he abandoned a wife and children, although the probability is that he left them provided for.  He abandoned attachment to things to the point where he was then beyond loss or grief, rather instead he was a part of what has been variously called Enlightenment, The True Self, even Nirvana.

In abstract and direct ways, The Buddha's achievements, although they seem splendid and immensely worthwhile, are achievements you regard as ideals, looking for ways to bring your immersion in and understanding of true story and of having a goal toward which you strive through understanding of yourself.

Grief and loss come to you the way spam emails come to your computer, sometimes from individuals and institutions you know, other times from sources you have yet to discover.  Grief and loss are by-products of a Reality you are learning and learning to incorporate in your stories.  It is still too early for you to know for a certainty if these multifarious strands and associations connecting the grief and losses in your life are a part of the overall source that allows you to proceed along the pathways you tread.

You do know you are essentially a happy person.  From time to time, you lose track of the pathway, mindful how much an accident it is that you ever found the pathway in the first place.  You are not surprised to lose it from time to time.  You would be supremely unhappy were you to lose the path for a prolonged time, a permanent time because you still have among your memories of lost things the memory of having been near desperate to find the path you thought you'd lost.

There is always a clue somewhere.

So long as you look, there will be clues.

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