Today I did the things I said I would do yesterday.
I went to the Washington Nationals playoff game today with my family. We sat together in great seats. The Nationals lost, which was a big disappointment, since they’re a great team and I had been very excited about the possibility.
Afterwards I went to Kol Nidre services with my grandparents. It was very meaningful for my grandfather, though my grandmother is more skeptical of religious services. I’m much closer to her view on these things, but I also don’t want to leave my grandfather behind. He’s older, and can’t remember a lot of things anymore. I used to be very close with my grandfather, even when I had trouble getting along with my parents, and it’s especially hard for me now to know that he’s so often not there.
My father is the one doing the most to take care of his parents. It’s very hard for him, watching his father get old. It’s hard for me watching him watch his father get old, and knowing that he is getting older too. Aging and death are very tough, and they really aren’t okay, but they happen. My brother and I are getting older. My family has great times together – we get along really well – but we’re very aware of the lack of eternity of things, and we don’t speak about it much. My brother and I were just talking about it, and it’s very scary. The only thing to do, really, is try to get into moments, try to develop some depth while you still can, try to find some bigger things to identify with so the totality of loss of softened. But really mortality is very hard.
There are so many things that are tough about it. It’s tough to lose people, but even tougher is thinking about how complete their loss is, and even tougher than that is that it happens to all of us. It’s weird, but true that that is the hardest part, even when we care deeply about other people. When things start getting peeled back, the self is very persistent. But because you have to recognize how small that self is in anyone else’s world, the thing to think about when anyone else is going through anything is them. That wouldn’t be true if it weren’t assumed that their self was their center.
My friend Curtis studied Akkadian in school, and read Gilgamesh in the original language. We were talking about the myth, and he mentioned that one of the best parts is how Gilgamesh is mourning his friend Enkidu, and is very sad to lose his friend, but the biggest reason he’s really sad is that he starts thinking about the fact that he too will die. We started laughing, and part of it is laughing at Gilgamesh, the nakedness of his little selfish action, the contrast to the bigness of the character and his heroism. But also because it seems very true, and it stands in contrast to what we sometimes pretend.
Around a lot of people, especially my friend, I like to joke and laugh about mortality, which I find terrifying and hilarious, because all of life is kind of in contrast to and denial of this fact. Around my family, I never joke about these things, or talk about them. I don’t know if it would hurt too much, or what. It doesn’t feel natural to our dynamic. Part of it, maybe, is that we know it, and recognize it, and we know that we all consider it independently, and have privately concluded that the only sane reaction is diving back into existence, creating moments and connections, enhancing the value of what little life we all have. So to not talk about it is to recognize that we all know it, that we are already acting in that knowledge.
If it is not that, I don’t think I want to find out. My family is a place I feel comfortable, and safe, but I feel greater boldness outside it. I wonder if there’s something about love and comfort that breeds cowardice. I wonder if there’s something about having love and comfort that allows boldness outside it. Do we need both kinds of spaces?
The world is an amazing and wondrous place, and the limits of our existence seem cold in contrast.