We also bitch: Not enough pay, too much interference, disrespect from the "doers" of the world.
But there are compensations, as I was reminded this week.
For instance, the more painful the root canal, Cubs loss or professional humiliation, the better the material. (How do people bear up in such situations without the indulgent little thought, "Hey, I could get a great story out of this"?)
And in business: A writer's mediocre idea floats on sprightly prose, while the non-writer's mediocre idea sinks in leaden language.
And, when your favorite uncle dies and your grieving dad asks you to say something at the funeral, you can say yes.
(Here's part of what I said about Uncle David:
All that was fine and all, but …. well for Godsakes, I could see that traffic just over my shoulder, those car lights creeping into Riverfront Stadium as the sun started to go down.
You were watching me watch that traffic go into Riverfront Stadium. You knew I was polite to quite say: “Uncle David, I do not want to miss the first pitch.”
Suddenly I heard you ask for the check with a chuckle—you are one of the world’s greatest chucklers—and I realized that you knew I was coming out of my skin to get into that ballpark. And what’s more, you approved of my enthusiasm. You liked me because I was excited.
Unlike so many other grownups in my life—and this remains every bit as true today as it was then—you didn’t encourage me to play it cool.
You encouraged my love for whatever I loved.
And you loved what you loved.
I still see you reading the sports page in the kitchen of that glorious house, and remember the way you smoked your Pall Mall and drank your coffee and, with your giant pinky in the air, savored your last piece of toast.
And I always liked your stock answer when somebody made fun of you for eating too much of something that wasn’t good for you. You just grinned and said, “Well I kinda like that stuff!”
I think that kind of sums up your attitude toward your whole life, which hasn’t been entirely easy, hasn’t been anything like perfect. But you didn’t miss one last piece of toast.)
And then afterward at the reception, when a stranger comes up and says you did a good job with Uncle David's eulogy, you can say, "Well Uncle David made it kind of easy." And he laughs and nods in perfect agreement and the two of you head to the bar together, for another Bombay and tonic.
I did my father’s eulogy. It was the most daunting, difficult, rewarding and honest thing I’ve ever written. I knew that I had it right when my oldest brother started crying half way through. We’re very different people, my brother and I, but in that moment we understood each other and we were both thinking the same things about our father.
Nobody outside that funeral chapel will likely ever know what I wrote, but in its own way it was the best piece of work I’ve ever done. And like you, David, I’m glad I had the ability to write when it mattered the most to me. It’s one thing to write for some abstract “audience”, but it’s something very different to write for yourself and the people you care about.
David Murray says
Yes, Rueben. It’s in such moments when one realizes with rare certainty that one has a legitimate and concrete and irreplaceable function in things. You’re actually gluing everyone together in a common memory.
Not sure I’ll be able to do my (85-year-old) dad’s eulogy, and I’ll forgive myself if I can’t. But I’ll try; it sure sounds like it was worth the effort for you.