I asked Mark a while back what life was all about, since I didn’t have a clue. He said, “Dad, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”
“At Clowes Hall, Indianapolis, April 27, 2007” From Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut
I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what’s happening. After a month, oil continues to spew out of a man-made hole in the ocean.
It is killing a way of life, not to mention life itself, this “accident.”
It finally occurred to me that I am feeling the same way I did when I watched the Twin Towers unravel. Only this has been going on for a month now, and there does not appear to be an end in sight.
And the consequences are even graver.
I’m sick of it.
A reporter described what it was like watching an oil-soaked pelican attempt to fly. It was heart breaking she said.
Yes. Heart breaking.
Years ago I read a book called Number Our Days. Barbara Meyerhoff, an anthropologist who had mostly studied Huichol Indians, decided when it came time to study an aging community that she would study a community of older Jewish people in Venice, California, since she, herself would one day be an old Jewish lady.
I loaned my copy of the book to someone more than twenty years ago. It is somewhere in the land of books-that-get-loaned-out-and-then-you-lose-touch-with- the-person-you-loaned-it-to. So I am writing from memory here.
The person I most remember from the book is a man called, I think, Shmuel. He was a bit of a black sheep in the community because of his socialist – maybe even Communist – leanings.
He was a tailor. He points out an older women wearing a coat to Barbara Meyerhoff as they sit on a bench at the beach.
I believe he had made the coat.
If the stitches unravel, he says, the coat will no longer keep her warm. And because it is the only coat she can afford, she will have no protection against the cold.
So, they, the woman wearing the coat and he, are connected by the stitches in that coat, he says to Meyerhoff.
That has stayed with me for thirty years, arising every now and again.
I don’t know how to articulate why it has come floating back into my memory at this particular moment.
But it occurs to me that we really need to understand that we are connected.
“We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”
Sadly, Barbara Myerhoff did not live to become an old Jewish woman. She died relatively young from cancer. Myerhoff’s work with the elderly community was first made into a documentary titled Number Our Days, which was directed by Lynn Litmann. The two collaborated on In Her Own Time, a film that documented Barbara Myerhoff’s illness and final days. Lynn Littman also directed the 1983 film Testament, a powerful indie film about the aftermath of a nuclear war.