Friday, June 20, 2014

Living and Dying All In The Same Breath

...we all are.

When I was younger and hung out in karaoke spots I used to sing Bonnie Raitt's "Love In The Nick of Time." The line
"I see my folks are getting on, and I watch their bodies change.
I know they see the same in me and it makes us both feel strange..."
           always made me tear up, but even then I knew the impact of those words would only become more forceful with time.

I am, to my own surprise, almost what they call "middle age" assuming I live to be at least 100 (I do plan on making it to 120 but you know there may be something else in store for me). For a while there was this unshakeable sadness at the time passing, sadness at how fast it seems to go the older you get. I despaired for a while that I would live the rest of my life at the sadness of what I had left behind, but I forced myself to realize that if I DO make it to 100, that's an awful waste of 50 years, feeling sad. And that for as long as their is breath in me I can learn new things or do something new or go someplace I've never been... and the sadness has abated a little bit, but its still there.

This is why I love photographs so much... they freeze a moment, a glance, a gesture, one sixtieth of a second of time. No other medium freezes time that way; a painting takes time to make and so your perception of the painting changes with every stroke, your interpretation of the time makes it's mark on the painting itself. Music can invoke a period of time, and sometimes take you back to that second itself but still you are enveloped in a sensation of time. But a photograph is, and forever, that moment in time.

Yesterday was probably my Sun's last concert with Opus. As someone pointed out I said this last year... but this year felt final. They told him to turn in his violin for repair, but the look in his eye said he'd never go back to get it. I know that look... it's one of mine. I had a tendency when I was his age to do the same thing... move on and never ever look back. "Never revisit the scene of the crime" I'd say, "because that's how you get caught."

He still plays violin, the Sun. He plays in high school and he enjoys the music he's learning so I'm not sad about that. It's not even that I'm sad, really. But I was overwhelmed by the all the new faces up on the stage, all the new babies, all the new, proud, parents, jostling for pictures of their babies' first concert, new pride beaming from their faces. Overwhelmed by all the faces I already knew from two or three years back, no longer standing in the front row, steadily advancing backwards through the rows to "Variations of Twinkle on the E String" and "Andantino" and "Can Can," through "Canon in D" to "Orange Blossom Special." I remember how my little ones strove to learn "Orange Blossom Special," attempting to teach themselves and each other the fast fiddling required to play, egging each other on. And now, it's nothing; child's play. One of them has moved on to viola playing things like "Suite No. 2 for Solo Violoncello," his body swaying, transported by the music. Others, like my Sun the Reluctant Violinist, able to sight read and transpose keys or play a medley from "West Side Story."

Watching the music yesterday evening made me feel time and how much time changes things.

On the West Coast, a virtual friend fights cancer, on the East Coast loved ones fight tumors or face heart surgeries. I'm only 49 but already I've lost friends to cancer, or stroke, or heart failure. Other friends are planning weddings for their children, welcoming grandchildren. Some of the elders are passing through the veil; Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee, my "cousin Betty," my grandparents, leaving me to Become Elder, living and dying all in the same breath.

Life is good; I can't complain at all. As always, I wish I had more money, more time; my short term memory is overcome by the day to day things I must remember, my long term memory bringing my experiences into a focus that's ever sharpening... I remember my own teenage years crystal clearly as I watch my child navigate his; him swearing I don't know what it's like anymore and me knowing exactly what it's like and what the consequences can be...  But I can't tell him. I am relegated to watching, guiding...

as I live and die, all in the same breath.