The single greatest problem In writing about death Is that everybody does it, dies Sooner or later, so it’s hardly All that special unless, like Twain, it happens more than once. But perhaps multiple deaths are not All that uncommon, for Buddhists, Among whom I count myself It happens all the time, karma demands it. And if I had any doubt, Google will confirm it. I, for instance, died the seasoned lawyer in Calgary in 2009, the trade I practice for 36 years, And I ironically died on my birthday In 2011 in Palm Beach Gardens, though I’ll be damned if I felt 84 then, and I kicked bucket in 1754 in Orbach, France But I’ve never been a real fan of the French although it is my next best language And when the wine is good, it’s great.
You were born 128 years ago, not a long time in the history of the planet and a blink in the life of the universe but two good lifetimes on the day you came into the world, not knowing what would become your place in it. We celebrate you today, as we celebrated you during your life, a rare feat for it is usually one or the other, either reason enough to have lived. I still recall the great windows, the larger-than-life paintings that brought Moses into my age, and I imagine you recalling the stories you learned at the feet of your grandfather, so I practice what I will tell my grandchildren of the immense passion of the small museum tucked away on a hill overlooking Nice.
The vines cling to the hillside, the small buds soon yielding fruit but now simply soaking up the spring sun. You dream the grapes are fat, the deep purple orbs holding in their Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and you only wish it would wash down the hillside and stain the sometimes fetid River. The boats flow up and down river with a metronomic regularity. The guides march their charges along cobbled streets hoping some will retain the great wisdom they impart, by long, practiced rote, wishing for the few euros measure of worth. Along the seawall in the ancient town two swans stare at the spectacle parade and offer blessings to the sky God Cygnus that they are fortunate enough not to be human.
The vines cling to the hillside, the small buds soon yielding fruit but now simply soaking up the spring sun. You dream the grapes are fat, the deep purple orbs holding in their Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and you only wish it would wash down the hillside and stain the sometime fetid River. The boats flow up and down river with a metronomic regularity The guides March their charges along cobbled streets hoping some will retain the great wisdom they impart, by long, practiced rote, hoping for the few euros measure of worth. Along the seawall in the ancient town the swans stare at the spectacle parade and offer blessings to the sky God Cygnus that they are fortunate enough not to be human.
There is a reason for this as there is is a reason for most things whether we like it or not, I tell my son. He gives me that smile that says “I do not agree at all with that, but you are my father, and so I won’t disagree,” but I know he means this only as a Japanese hai, yes, I understand, but I will take it as hai, I agree. I don’t speak Japanese, neither does my son, but we both know that if we were right now in France the one thing he wouldn’t be saying is d’accord, father or no.
The question, of course, is which is Frankenstein, which his monster a chicken and egg problem that invites debate, denies solution. They say, of course, it is you – We sent you Lafayette, never assuming quelle catastrophe would grow from our gift. Freedom doesn’t make you a God but somehow you never learned that too busy writing rules for the rest of us to ignore. Quite to the contrary, we say, we sacrifice mightily to redeem you, buried our own dreams to build a foundation for yours, twice, and you repay us not with the gratitude we so deeply deserve from you, but with derision, and that, only if you are feeling beneficent. You are the epitome of arrogance we each say and we know that it is the glue that binds us.
It is stall after stall of tomates de Provence, choux wishing to be kale, peches, small and barely containing their juice. Courgettes beckon, pommes de terre call out their aerieal cousins, haricots quietly suggest a citron aussi. Walking along the boulevard a tourist obviously, without bags or cart, I get polite nods that say me ignoring you isn’t personal it’s merely financial, pardonnez-moi. Tonight in my dreams, I will with flash of Wusthoff, be in my kitchen pulling my morning’s purchases from my bag, the meal coming together before me, to the amazement of my wife and friends. “It’s nothing,” I will say, “juste le matin dans la marché de Nice, pour vous, simplement.
I am swimming strongly, easily my strokes powerful, gliding over the waves that seemed to collapse beneath me. The water is surprisingly warm not the frigidity I expected, more like a now tepid tub, but left too long. I can glance up and see the other side and it is approaching rapidly. This will be over too soon, I fear all of the preparation and doubt falling away as I step onto the shore. I no longer see why swimming this Channel is such an accomplishment, it seems almost pedestrian, like making it across the above ground pool that killed a circle of my parents lawn when I was a child, but things do always end up being far easier in my dreams.
I thought about sending you a postcard, one with the Riviera in the background or from Vieux Nice, with its teeming life, after all, we did have 30 years together. We never came here, I haven’t been back to the places we went together since they, like so much of what we shared, I left to you. I figured you needed that more than I did, that you said you felt nothing for me anymore I still felt much, good, bad, but never indifferent, so you got it all, though to you, I suspect, even the good turned sour with time. I couldn’t think of what to write on the postcard so to save us both time, and you the effort, I simply put a stamp on it and threw it in the trash container along the beach.