This morning, I exited my apartment to find Jim, our next door neighbor, walking his dog. Jim and I cross paths most mornings. We always exchange a quick hello and, “Have a great day.” He typically looks like he just rolled out of bed. Today, Jim wore a suit under his overcoat.
“Looking sharp,” I said.
“Why, thank you!”
Jim could be my grandfather. Smokes cigarettes and wears white whiskers. He and his wife own the house next to where we rent. They’ve lived there for over fifty years.
“Why so spiffy?” I asked.
“Going to the wake of a dear friend.”
“Wow. I’m sorry. I’m actually going to a wake today, too,” I said, holding up my suit bag. “Christy’s cousin passed away earlier this week.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that. Give my best to Christy.”
“Thank you. Something we all have to deal with.”
Jim smiled a wide grin. “True. True.”
We wished each other well, and I left Jim to head into my day. As I walked to the subway, a couple plodded in front of me. I’d seen them before. They are an Asian couple who live at the senior citizen apartment complex on the corner. They always look beautiful. Today, I shot a little video of them, and I wrote a quick haiku.
Hand in hand they walk
Morning rays on wrinkled skin
Once more, together
I imagined morning walks with my wife in 40 years. I thought about the last time we held hands. I remembered I’m going to see our cousin’s face for the last time. Someone who went too soon. Someone who won’t ever hold hands again.
A few hours later, I read this: Chinua Achebe, African Literary Titan, Dies at 82
Things Fall Apart shaped my childhood. It was the first time I understood how storytelling creates empathy. As a white, middle-class boy from a small town in Illinois, I felt for the protagonist Okonkwo, and – though I didn’t know it at the time – his story influenced my views on racism and colonialism. It taught me nothing lasts forever. I love this tale.
Tears filled my eyes. Time quickened.
A text popped up on my phone from my father. It was about my stepsister:
Jessica had baby girl at 9:17. She has reddish blonde hair. No weight or measurements yet. Both mother and baby doing very good.
And so it continues. Another day. Another death. Another life.
In a week, Christy and I move away from Brooklyn, where I have lived for 15 years. I won’t see Jim in the morning any more. Who knows if I will ever see him again? But it was good to see his sweet smile today. That is what matters. Today.
Recently, on the online social spheres, I shared a personal insight I had. I’m offering it again here because I want to remember:
Woke this morning and realized this is the best time in my life. Wishing you similar realizations. Now.
PS. I suggest playing India Arie’s Growth while watching the video of the couple on the street.