The Father returns to the Child
A week ago. Yes. Only a week ago. Phone calls before. A funeral. Did not work that day. Sat around in my apartment, waiting. Television. And other images. Then slowly getting dressed. Thinking I am late. Out the door and to my car. Hot. Blisteringly hot. Driving. Up 95. Then on side roads, Knight’s Road, to Neshaminy Mall.
A cemetary. Car parking the road. Pull up around and walk past many graves. To my family. The grandson, he says: the Man did nothing for me, not since my father died — I sit and listen silent —
Then, we go out of the car and we stand there, and the Rabbi — who is the son of his father who was the Rabbi who presided over my ritual ascension to the community when I was thirteen, in a small synagogue in Philadelphia, teeming of the old world, gone, that Rabbi died near the end of the 90s, into his grave, and all the Jews of Philadelphia came down to Broad Street to bury him, like a great sage, like a great one of old, and now that Rabbi is gone, and his son is the new Rabbi, and black beard has begun to turn white as the son becomes the father — the Rabbi begins.
And he says “This man was not from here. But he came here, often for his son, and buried his son, Michael, alav l’shalom, and now the father returns to the child.” At this point, I cry, in the blistering heat.
And then the man’s daughter speaks, of the conflicts between her faith and his science. The man was a genius, a doctor of engineering and fluid dynamics — —
10.25.11 — and the post is unfinished. Appropriately, perhaps. I do know what happened next, however: the woman speaks of gaining some peace with her father, and of some pleasant and supportive things he said about our shared wandering faith — the son speaks, and speaks of his surety that the dead man is in the World to Come — the worst the worst the worst —
later, at the house of the wife of the man’s son who died ten years before we sit around and discuss and grandchildren who did not necessarily know him mingle and some feel betrayed and others loved and the children of the man are heartbroken, abyssal, sitting, following heartbroken, and I speak with one about our mutual field of employment law and throw a basketball around for a second and avoid the man’s ex-wife who is the mother of the man’s son who died who is my uncle who’s death ten years ago broke my heart and my view of the universe beyond healing and see her for a moment and ask her how’s she doing and she says not well with a mirthless or half-mirth smile but her own mortality hanging over her and the infinite loss of the man in the ground who used to be her partner once and gave her those children and brought this world into being and the mortality of her dead son my uncle by marriage hanging over her too the great Jovian grief of that infinite lost compared to my own satellite of satellite grief — though for all us of course, it is Margaret we mourn for — and yet somehow in the greatness of the man the work the doing and the cleareyed secret atheism with which I know this man went into the darkness at that moment on that day when we laid his empty body next to his son’s empty body and we buried the son’s leavings in the heart of winter and the father’s ten years later in the heart of summer, somehow I don’t despair at that moment, I am at some peace, I do not know what it is, the knowledge of dying old, perhaps, but still dying, I cannot imagine it, now, a few months later, as winter returns and fall is still beautiful but winter returns and perhaps it is the repetitions, the repeating, or the standing in one place, the living while dying like a shark failing —
Not now. Do not feel contented now or at peace now, in October.
But then, a death in summer — sure.
There is no greater meaning here. We all go down to darkness. And loneliness and absence and unthinking and unable to love or think or anything or anything at all — and others go one, suffering too, just like us, basically identical to us, except for that one little thing, that they are not us, and never will be, and we are alone in our self and merely pass from here to there to nowhere, a bubble popping into existence and then a bubble popping out —
here is the Church, and here is the steeple, open the doors, and where are all the people —
and the Story of the Book is the Story of the Great Existent Being who walks with us and passes through us and nevertheless is not us but nevertheless comes to love us each to each and loves us even more for the sake of our fathers, for the sake of our mothers, those other fireflies who caught his attention and drew his love before winking out forever and that Great Existent Being said I AM THEN and I AM NOW and I AM WHAT WILL BE and not all things exist, but all things either have existed, exist, or will exist —
Sweet madness. Yesterday, leaving the office, late at night, ensconced in these four walls and then outside for the first time that day thinking this thinking that the outdoors is just another room but then also thinking about how the great vault of the sky is really a great deep dark pit abyssm stretching down endlessly down forever or that we are crawling on the conglomeration of certain dust around certain dust due to this strange property of stuff where it tends to fall towards each other and towards each other and towards each other —
until the fires alight from so much falling, and a strange alchemical burning — the very basic laws of physics burning – bright – triumphant — the sun — the sun — all hail the rising of the — even coupled with the absurdity the old absurdity attributed to Protojew Urfather and Urukfather Av’Racham who said the sun too was created —
and today on 10.25.11, walking in the mall, and thinking of those other infinite gravity wells, those loci consciousness, those seeing feeling computing waking instantiations of the universe —
or high with my cousin with my unhigh brother as verbal amanuensis to our highness speaking of the freezing of time that may or may not occur when you break or reach or break the light barrier and realizing slowly in my heavy high that this freezing of time is identical to the Big D and realizing in my heavy high that the Big End comes for me as well and no man knows the time or place of its coming and when it comes, it comes and there Is No Stopping It —
or perhaps the sad story related by my sister who will no doubt relate other sad stories to me over the course of our remaining wanderings about my friend’s younger brother who hung himself this June, in the heart of summer, even as we others who had long lost track of that particular instance of the universe, a boy, a man, with troubles unknown, who’s depth of feeling and depth of pain and I hope sometimes once depth of joy reached as deep and true as my own, even as we others who had long lost track stood at a grave site we had stood at ten years prior and laid down the father next to the son.