- Sometimes I feel like I see life in pictures and songs. Almost as if the image is more real or significant than the person snapping the shot or the moment in which it all happens. I walk, gaze, stare… and a song appears; it floats around my thoughts, sometimes plaguing my mind for days, covering every minute like a blanket.
- My grandfather is dying. What a terrifying, somewhat alleviating realization; he’s suffering. The man who taught me to ice skate, build a fire, grill a burger, sail a boat, will never meet my children. I break. Anyway, I saw a man walking home from the drug store today. He looked worn, like old leather. He oozed an established loneliness all over his face. He looked like someone who will die alone, every bridge burned. Every person who would think about attending his funeral would think again; maybe the type of person the song “Eleanor Rigby” was about. At least my grandfather is loved and well accompanied.
- In a perfect world, my friends wouldn’t betray me, I wouldn’t get jumped or have my bike stolen, I wouldn’t have to half-begrudgingly ride my bike to work; I would fly, anywhere, anytime. In a perfect world my grandfather would live forever. And I could eat his world-famous hot cakes every morning for breakfast at his house on the lake and laugh as he covers his plate with his hands, making fun of me for always wanting more of his flapjacks.
- All these thoughts, all on a bike ride to work. For some reason, this ride is different than any other. It’s slower, with intention, purpose. Like restfully peddling this cycle could be the last thing I do. Like I was the one dying. I don’t believe we should live like we are dying. It would be irresponsible, selfish, chaotic. Maybe we should live in full recognition that others are dying and we can honor them by being present, being so profoundly aware of every precious, horrifyingly real moment of our time here. Maybe I just love my gramps.
- At work, later on, I scribble a prophetic and troubling prayer on one of the papers I take peoples’ orders at work. I pray that my grandfather’s death signifies a deeper ending. An end to a long family history of addiction. The abuses are of all scale, shape, form and the list is lengthy, and varied: food, illicit drugs, sex, cigarettes, alcohol, prescribed medication. Even certain kinds of less-acknowledged relational addictions like an anxious obsession with the opinions others may have of you or a paranoid need for a dating situation. Addictions that are slowly and painfully killing the rest of my family. I pray his death allots us the grace and power to let go of unfinished business, oppressive regrets. The power to stop, and the grace to never do it again; Power to give up our guns, and the grace to surrender.
© Jeff Caldwell