My father had a couple of heart attacks this week, though as of this writing I am happy to report that he is still walking the earth and, by all accounts, should continue to do so for the near future. I do not view death as a pile of ash and bones, but as life transitioning, though this is a transition I have had to understand through my imagination as I have yet to experience it myself. Which is to say, it was disorienting for a few hours as I saw that I might not be able to pick up the phone at any time and hear my dad’s voice on the other end of the line.
When I learned that dad had had his first and then second heart attack, I thought of my friend Will, who had passed recently. I had not seen or spoken to Will in several years, and so in an odd way my experience of Will before he passed and after he passed remained essentially the same: I still loved him, I still thought of him, I still told stories about him and remembered what it was to be in his company and what I learned from him; and the fact that he had died did not and could not change that.
So it will be should my father go before I do, but it is disorienting because I am his son. Dad and I shared a lot, notably a love of games. Talking to him on the phone after the first heart attack, I kept thinking of those games in the shadow of his mortality. In this shadow, it is clear the game is not what we often think it is. If the scoreboards were turned off, I wondered, and if the referees went home and the crowd dispersed—would the players still play? Would the game go on if we saw that we had drawn every line we believed we had to cross, that we invented every rule we were not allowed to break?
I think many a book is written to answer precisely this question. I don’t think we’re actually afraid of this boogieman called oblivion our rational selves invented sometime ago. I think we are afraid to learn that the game means nothing. And indeed it doesn’t, except, like the stories we tell, when you are playing it. Like the stories we tell, you find the meaning as soon as you find the game, for there you are at the center of creation, with nowhere to go but where you are.
Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
“A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.