A Friend of Beethoven

I’m tired. It was a long walk today, longer than I was expecting, but my perpetual companions proffered a tired soul enough to make land. As of late, within the last couple of years, its hard to tell as my memory has begun to find uncertain purchase, and the difference in seasons is negligible here, one of the reasons I came west so long ago now, my body has begun to hurt and tire easily. Michael and David tell me its because I’m getting old, mocking my rickety, unsteady attempts at rising in the morning with calls of old man, old fart, and their favorite: worm food. That last one always make me laugh. They, in turn, have given up youthful aspirations; creases and deep set wrinkles, the marks of long years of laughter and sorrow, characterize once youthful faces. Friends, too caught up in the goings on of life, too distracted to notice the steady, rhythmic onslaught of old age are now deep within its clutches. We, moving in unison, shared youthful beauty, the respect and handsome accolades of middle age, and now the pity of those who navigate their way around our unsteady gait. All, except Anita, fight the ravages of time; she doesn’t look a day over 25, exactly as I met her so many years ago, baring an uncanny resemblance to my young wife. Maybe it is this recent sense, this recent awareness, that not an inconsiderable amount of time has passed in my life, and that the infinite well of vigor and vibrance of youth has begun to sputter and spurt.

A long time ago, my father, a Protestant minister who preached the threat of fire and brimstone, but whose testimony of God’s grace was of love and sacrifice, a revelation to his congregation so powerful that even the strongest of men in our town left Sunday service with tears welling in their eyes, told me, when it came for his own father to  pass, that time favors no one, that all must return to the EarthDust to Dust, ashes to ashes. I know this to be true. As a child my beloved cat, a siamese who my mother doted on endlessly, and on whom my father feigned a lack of interest, met an untimely death through something so trivial as a tic. Our modestly appointed home, sponsored by the church, came with a large backyard, affording him sanctity and quiet solitude tucked into a corner in his shoebox. I was sure of two things: my cat was a Christian, I had no reservations about the health of his soul, and there would be a place for him in paradise. The following year, amid a reckless atmosphere within the congregation, spurned on by the jealousies of John Marshall, my father’s compensation was threatened, inspiring him to plant a garden in our backyard. He thought, as rightly he should have, that self-sustenance was required of us then, and found, much to his surprise, that manual labor appealed to his puritanical nature. It was during the earliest stages of our preparations that we came upon the grave; naive as I was, I expected him to be fully intact, instead a gruesome mismatch of sparse fur and bone greeted me, allowing an intimate look at the mechanisms that parlayed desire into movement. In my moment of bewilderment and near panic, my father, placing the weight of his substantial hand reassuringly on my shoulder, explained God‘s intention for permitting death. He said without a mortal threat the beauty of life would be muted, our minds, drifting too far into the infinite, would perceive forever without wonder and gratitude, diluting our souls, ensuring distance between creator and created. When I asked him what he meant, he replied “we, as finite humans, who look to the Lord for guidance and assurance, are only able to love something to the fullest, as a species and individually, when it can be taken. That is why the Lord remains a mystery to man, why He is betrayed by His children in their thoughts and actions; He is forever.” Many years, and many sleepless nights passed before I understood what my father said that day crouched beside me.

Read the rest here: Getting the Bends

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