love letter from 92 year-old e

by erika

Dear Erika,

First morning in a long while that you have been up before the sun. The quiet of your home is a gift you haven’t opened in months and months. And after last night’s bullying brawl, I can only imagine how eager you are for calm, as your inner voice says, “Oh shut up, man” over and over and over. From here at 92, that voice comes in a quiet, gentle whisper…no effort needed to shush the patriarchal bully with more than that at our age. Just a little wisdom cookies and milk and he is sent crumbing off to his corner. But at your 47 yard line, you want to yell at the insanity of lies and the aggressive attacks against the people you love–of course you take what he says personally! When he is yelling “YOUR son!” he could be yelling about your family member who was an addict and just barely survived. When he’s yelling about The Left, he’s yelling at your nephew on the spectrum and your own queer heart. When he’s bellowing about pre-existing conditions, he’s screaming at your sister and your cousins who have autoimmune diseases that have ALWAYS been pre-existing because they are genetically rooted. I know love, the heartbreak that comes from this big meany and his divisiveness based on personal ego is devastating. But the devastation is not just about this one small man, it’s that he calls on something deeper in all of us…our very ugly desire to be right instead of kind.

This question you ask your child everyday, “Is it better to be right or to be kind,” is your prayer that you hope will be answered in time, through action and deed. (ez gets there, I promise!)

How do we human people show just the smallest bird of kindness to one another? “Look there, in the tree, that one!” “And, listen here, at my chest, this sweet warble!”

How to do we let ourselves be vulnerable in our not knowing and cozy up to our willingness to hold space for others within our mistakes? Every damn day?!?!

Oh, how I crave The Age of Silence, the time when the world had to listen harder to the kinesthetic gestures of our beloveds. (Like the bedtime game I long ago played with ezra, squeezing muscle to bone a certain number of times asking to “listen” to get the count correct).

Where I used to worry as a child that death would be all quiet and empty, I now relish the thought of that unending spa day. I just hope I can bring one book for the lobby (The History of Love by Nicole Krauss)– and that they are serving sparkle, not just chamomile tea.

“Forgive me…of course I know I’ve always been right to love you…” (I’m looking at you, kid and opening my palms to say– I’m sorry this life takes its time to reveal everything we need to know and then leaves us unfinished anyway at the end.) I promise that I will be here for you in the waiting room–and beyond.

With love and kindness,

92 year-old e

from The History of Love

During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less. Basic survival demanded that the hands were almost never still, and so it was only during sleep (and sometimes not even then) that people were not saying something or other. No distinction was made between the gestures of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious. When a hand was used to shield one’s face when frightened by a loud noise something was being said, and when fingers were used to pick up what someone else had dropped something was being said; and even when the hands were at rest, that, too, was saying something. Naturally, there were misunderstandings. There were times when a finger might have been lifted to scratch a nose, and if casual eye contact was made with one’s lover just then, the lover might accidentally take it to be the gesture, not at all dissimilar, for Now I realize I was wrong to love you. These mistakes were heartbreaking. And yet, because people knew how easily they could happen, because they didn’t go round with the illusion that they understood perfectly the things other people said, they were used to interrupting each other to ask if they’d understood correctly. Sometimes these misunderstandings were even desirable, since they gave people a reason to say, Forgive me, I was only scratching my nose. Of course I know I’ve always been right to love you. Because of the frequency of these mistakes, over time the gesture for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just to open your palm was to say: Forgive me.”