— From the Fool —
There’s a bunch of wise proverbs out there, which you can live by if you work at it. You get them on Facebook. Like roaches.
It started with King Solomon. But wisdom hit a pothole with him. He was supposed to be the wisest man, but that’s setting the bar pretty low. He said, Cut the kid in two, and that got him his big reputation. But that depended on all moms being nice. They might have both said okay.
Plus, he had a thousand wives, which makes me think his brains weren’t located up top. And he built this big empire, which didn’t win him friends. Folks crapped on the Jews for the next two thousand years.
But he had a lotta bucks, so they wrote him up in the Bible.
I wrote some proverbs. If they don’t make Facebook, I might try birthday cards.
1. Little girls and boys might get old if they’re lucky.
2. People have different shadows depending where the sun is.
3. Us kids would stomp on each others’ shadows and call it war. Then we grew up and did it the usual way. Maybe think twice about that.
4. Gray hair still tries to hold on.
5. People with nothing to say can talk any language.
6. It’s the One! (That can apply to Nixon, God, Coke, or whatever you’re selling.)
That might be too much wisdom all at once. Or you might come up with better ones. There’s lots of jobs out there for fools.
— From EF —
It’s hard to let things go. It’s been the story of our life together, rich and many-textured, but it hasn’t always been easy to ride the changes.
I’ve been on a roll for the last year and a half with my birth-family search. After thirty years of dead ends, I finally got a set of clues that looked way more than promising, and I’ve invested a huge amount of research time compiling information on what might be my family.
Now I really know a lot about these Fullers, their ancestors, when they immigrated, how they married, where they lived, and I’ve even been to the family cemetery in Queens. I was really getting to know them, and now I have to face the fact that they may not be mine. Ouch.
My mother, Mary Fuller, was 23 when I was born in Brooklyn in 1940. How many 23-year-old Mary Fullers were there in Brooklyn then? I found only one, and I’ve traced her living family. But the people who might be my cousins finally answered my letters and said, no, not our Aunt Mary, and they say why. They didn’t stonewall me, they respected my search, and my gut sense is that they’re not flinching from a family secret.
So here I go again. I hadn’t had much interest in my blood-line until I had children, and then everything changed. I never felt abandoned — I understood and empathized with the Mary who bore me. But this is a second break in the link, and it is disorienting. When push comes to shove, I will need to say that “I yam who I yam” and let it go at that, because that is finally what we all come to.
But I can’t give up yet on trying to find my tribe, those people who share the funny little quirks that are the post-it notes to connection. I grew up a loner, in isolation — I want that connection. And until I have no more paths to follow, I will keep looking. And then I will let go.
— From CB—
Spring of 1963 I was finishing my M.A at Northwestern, and in a burst of youthful hubris I directed a student production of Prometheus Bound — the Greek god chained a rock by Zeus, tormented daily by a vulture ripping out his liver. The show was fairly successful, by the standards of the time, and was the first of dozens of music scores that Elizabeth composed — this one improvised on the koto. The cast included Frank Galati, who went on to a distinguished theatre career. Elizabeth gave him a haircut to fit his role.
And our student friend, who played Prometheus. He went on to a life as a poet, editor, writer, teacher, and therapist. We reconnected a few years back, had some lovely dinners together, and he was a key presence at one point in my heart surgery days. Yesterday, he wrote us and other friends about his death.
His coming death, that is. A long apache-dance with cancer. It was a beautiful letter, outlining the current prognosis, apologies for its bulk-mail nature and for limited energy to see friends, and an unromanticized sense of preparation. Our only answer could be . . . thank you for telling us . . . thank you for your grace in facing something you really don’t want to do . . . let us know if you’re able to have company for a day . . . and just plain, well, thank you for your life. Anticipatory farewells are weird, but postmortem emails probably bounce.
Inevitably, at this age, you either stand as your friends fall, or your friends stand as you fall. Neither option is highly desirable. The best you can do in either direction is to do it, in either direction, with grace; to express gratitude for gifts given and received, and for a life lived; to accept mortality as a struggle — like Jacob wrestling with the angel — that you can’t win but where you at least try to hold out till the sun comes up.
And if you die being loved by others you can’t dull their grief, any more than the baby can lessen its mother’s labor pains. You can only reach out with the strength you can muster to say hello, and they to you. Hello, my friend: we are present with you.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2014