Throughout the months of COVID isolation, like so many others, we have been swimming in screens. We binge watched the entire The Office and fell hopelessly in love with Jim and Pam. All 23 MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies, even The Incredible Hulk, which almost nobody watches. Now, we’re moving slowly through the Star Wars saga, including the extras like Solo and The Mandalorian. Our commitment to wholeness required us to suffer through the prequels, disappointing then and only marginally less so now. I do love the new ones, especially The Last Jedi. It’s actually my favorite of the films.
As you know, I’m reading, too. I read another Fredrik Backman novella called “And Every Day The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.” This tiny gem is set inside the head of a man who is suffering from dementia, and losing his memories. Every day the way home to himself and his memories gets longer and longer. Obviously, it’s heartbreaking, but it’s the sort of ache that we need to have form time to time to keep our hearts soft and in working order.
I shouldn’t have read it, not now. You see, there is an unreasonable amount of death and suffering in the circles around me. I could write forever about any of them, but this is the one I will. A man lost his wife, a lovely woman, to cancer a few days ago.
I took him some bread and a card yesterday morning, half hoping he wouldn’t answer the door. (I know that sounds awful, but you know just what I mean.) He didn’t so I left it at the door and left. As I drove away, he passed me in his car. There are certain moments in your life where you see who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming. Usually these transformations happen so slowly we don’t notice. But sometimes we are able to see clearly. I wanted to keep driving. He didn’t see me, I could’ve let my card and bread be enough. I wanted to keep driving even as I was making a u-turn in the street to chase him.
He pulled into his driveway and I followed. We hugged each other, he talked, and when I could stand it no more, we both cried in the front yard.
Some things hit you harder than others. I think I know why this one leveled me the way it did. It was that it was his wife. In the book, he speaks to his deceased wife in his fading mind. And as I sat in that sadness, tears soaking my cheeks, I realized that every love story is our love story. Every lovely wife is my lovely wife. Art is of course about it’s creator but it’s also about everyone else.
Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader matter because fathers and sons matter, specifically, your father, your son, my dad, my son. My dad wasn’t an evil oppressor of galaxies, but we did have issues where I might have wanted him to be something other than what he was, I might have wanted him to see me as who I was, rather than trying to make me into what he wanted, or seduce me to the dark side of the force. As these things tell us a new story, they’re also reading the story of us to us in language we can understand.
My friend and his wife weren’t art, they were real life and real death. But what’s the difference, really? We’re all telling stories with our lives, finding connections in the dark, noticing hidden relationships, and it is in discovering the things that tie us together that real life truly becomes artwork.