If you missed the letter John wrote to me, you can take a look.
You know I’ve been having some funky dreams this past week. Last night, I dreamed I was writing a letter home from summer camp. I went to bed thinking I’d write you today, and that’s how you showed up in my subconscious. I’m sorry you didn’t get a more exotic storyline, like maybe rushing in on a fire-breathing stallion, bare chested and wielding a Persian scimitar, taking care of serious business. Maybe next time, but still – the summer camp seemed nice and I wanted to be sure to tell you about it, so that’s kind of the same thing.
I don’t remember the Challenger explosion as clearly as you do. I was in high school, and I remember the devastation — but not the details of the day. The first tragedy that really leveled me was years earlier, Hinkley’s assassination attempt of Reagan. For the first time I realized how evil people could be. That’s an awful thing for a boy to reckon with, isn’t it?
I thought about you having lunch with your parents most days during your freshman year. That’s a wonderful memory. Did I ever tell you how after college, when I had moved back in with my folks and was driving to Dallas three days a week for grad school, that my mom started packing my lunch again? Just like when I was in elementary school. Maybe once every other week or so, she’d even drop one of those little notes on lace-edged Hallmark paper into my brown paper bag. Her note, penned in her elegant and flawless cursive handwriting, told me how she loved me or how proud she was of me. I still have one of those notes in my drawer.
A few weeks ago, we passed the one year anniversary of my mom’s death, and last week, my friend and teacher Vigen Guroian’s mom died. He emailed me from the train to Connecticut, on his way to her funeral, and told me that the priest asked him to do the eulogy. If he was able to make his way through it, Vigen planned to read an excerpt from his book The Fragrance of God. I had forgotten that one chapter is a meditation he wrote to his mom, on the hope of resurrection. I told him I would read it again that day, in memory of his mother and my own. He wrote these words to her: “By giving birth to me, Mother, you have ensured my death and in some real sense hastened your own…Now as I watch you diminish with years, I tremble as I confront not just your mortality but also my own, since they are deeply, mysteriously interwoven.”
Mortality indeed. You turn the 49 this year, and I’ll tackle the 45. I’ve often thought I’d hit my stride in my 60’s, but still the years are ticking. It makes me want to live well. It makes me want to speak things that are true and not dink around with goofiness. Do you remember the part in A River Runs Through It (and I think stories 2 and 3 are even better than the first one that gets all the notoriety) when the crew mapping the Bitterroot Wilderness was perplexed about what to do with Wet Ass Creek? The name seemed uncouth, but Maclean and his logging buddies argued that its distinctive name should be honored and not watered down to please the sensibilities of bureaucrats (they even expressed giddy hopes that it might one day become Wet Ass National Park). So the mappers passed Wet Ass Creek up the chain, but suits in a far away office scrunched the letters as one word, dropped an s and added a long-e at the end so that to this day (and I’ve checked) it’s known as Wetase Creek (pronounced: wetosee). What a shame. It’s exhausting to play those games, isn’t it?
I love that you thought of me when you read Hugo (the loving of places and the “man not afraid to weep,” especially). But I want to hear more about how Hugo’s helped you with the stuck place. You knew I’d ask. You can write about it, or we can talk in person in March. I feel like I have swirling questions about my life too (I could call it “stuck” maybe), so perhaps you can pass good Hugo’s wisdom on.
I hope you splurge and get those new boots, even though the funds are tight (I get it).