Saturday, June 19, 2010

Still Here

Dear Arthur and Julia,

I am sure that in these paragraphs, I might be writing to only one person. Maybe one who’s sharing my sentences with a partner, but, one author, anyway.

I mention that because one of your earlier messages was signed, “Arthur and Julia.” And, I confess, at least now, something deep inside me cries out for even the idea of that: two people. Or, the hope of that. (No doubt the weddings starting up in my camp this week have something to do with it. Anyway, I’m going to go with both names.).

So, dear Arthur and Julia,

You really caught me with your last e-mail.

You said something so damnably simple; used a phrase that all of a sudden was so powerful, I couldn’t get it out of my head.

And then I couldn’t get out for all the times in my experience I may have missed it, or worse, dismissed it.

Then I just couldn’t get it out; couldn’t make it leave. I repeated it like it a new phrase in a new language, one that captured a way to say the highest compliment to somebody.

“…I am so very glad” you wrote, “you are still here….”

I think I felt foolish, or blind, when it struck me. I thought I’d tell you, just in case you thought I don’t think about it. I do think about it. Eventually, maybe I get it. I’m learning. Yours was like, maybe I heard it a hundred times, but, I never heard it before.

“I am so very glad you are still here.”

What a strange and wonderful clause.

I could make excuses. I mean, I probably have said a weaker version of that, and heard a weaker version in response a million times, maybe in shortened form: “Hey, glad to see you,” or, “Good to see you.” Maybe in longer form, when a person really wants to tell another person that it really, really is good to see him; uplifting, life-affirming, maybe, just what the doctor would have prescribed; and that he really wants anybody within earshot to know it:

“Hey, Eddie, damn glad to see you!” or, “You don’t how we looked forward to this!” or, “Gosh, it’s really good to see you.”

I say that a lot. And I mean it a lot, when I say it.

“Hey, I haven’t seen you guys since the last, ‘Paper Bag.’ Geez it’s good to see you.”

Or, “man, look at you. You know, I would have bet on the entire American Hotel sliding into the Corner Bar before I’d have expected you to be here for this. Wow. Man, it’s good to see you.”

I’ve said exactly that.

And that’s only when it’s, “good to see,” somebody. And it was good to see him, and I was really thrilled.

But this is different.

“I am so glad you are still here.”

And, of course, I am in this, specific life, where I occasionally shared intimate details of my 40-year-narrative with anywhere from two to upwards of a million readers.

(I’m still rather astounded at the gall of that. I can hear my mother and her sisters cackling: “Do you believe the gall, to say this.” Of course, my mother also was very proud to be the mother of all this gall. “You’ve got seeds, Ed. You’re out there saying something just under my consciousness, just out of reach, until you say it.”

And I say these things—especially the infuriating parts; or, the poignant parts…well, or…the funny parts; or the humiliating and embarrassing parts; the surprise parts, the proud parts, the painful parts…the scary parts—blissfully unashamed.

The strangeness of that is I reveal these things largely to un-introduced people—I never met you and you never met me—and you become very familiar people, even intimate people, because of what one of us says; or, the shared familiarity of what he/she says.

I suppose, the risk is mockery, but the reward is not-having-to-be-so-alone. I’ll take that.

Still, I didn’t get it, not until today.

The reason I think I stopped this time is a seemingly simple switch in emphasis. It was in front of me all time, and really should been have obvious to me all the time. I don’t know what made it so clear this morning, when it was not clear at all ever before.

I wonder, can a stroke, like, open some other passageways to the brain, or am I just thick?

You wrote, “I am so glad you are still here.”

I translated that somehow to mean a compliment to me, and not a statement of fact about you. What a dolt.

I say, or even think, “Thanks a lot,” or, “Thanks for saying that,” and thereby skirt, duck, or miss the whole point of what you just said.

You are so glad that I am still here; that I didn’t leave, yet.

That, alone, is a reason to live.

1 comment:

  1. I started writing a long winded comment in response to this incredible column, but had to stop and rewrite.
    Thank you Arthur & Julia- for this lovely expression of your appreciation! I am thinking thoughts like this spoken out loud are exactly what the world needs more of! I pray that more and more people speak out now about what makes them happy- and more of us give credit instead of criticism. We so need this now :) Maybe one day the top story will be that "Peace broke out in the Middle East today.."
    Booyah, edlowe- for sharing, yet again, such Good News* you are truly the best* Finn