They Say

They say it’s your birthday…. And being of the Beatles generation, those words…opaquely sardonic as they are…sum it all up. And what is that sum? They say, indeed. They say lots of things. And on this day I say, believe it or not, rejoice in survival…not only of the organism, but of the spirit. And rejoice that my organism and spirit are sharing both physical and temporal space with Jane who has a whoopee attitude towards celebrating the date of one’s birth. As we have done already. My shower of gifts from her including a life-sized parking cone, perfect for keeping spaces clear around my van’s wheelchair ramp. And what else is there to say?

Well, there is, there is, and this must be said to my university friend and erstwhile roommate, Bruce Rosen in British Columbia. They say it’s your birthday too…just last month if my crumbling memory serves me…and what could be a finer testament to this particular Canadian life than an article just appearing in my email. Bruce’s account of his 50th high school reunion.

With America’s perennial racial divide more on the radar these days, this particular piece seems unusually poignant. Bruce captures one of those faintly charged moments that most of us in the States have become inured to…sad and discomfiting as they are. The reunion party over, participants are settling the drink tab. An African-American woman Bruce has known for more than 50 years doesn’t quite believe he has paid his share. He settles this in the most generous way. Yet there is no settling the score…the real, non-monetary score. It’s left to reverberate unpleasantly.

In the same piece, things about Bruce emerge that I hadn’t quite appreciated. These details of his youth were bits I probably knew. But forged into a narrative, their meaning comes to life.

And coming to life is a good thing. Which is why I urged Bruce to include this, and forthcoming pieces, in a regular blog. When he told me he didn’t have much to say, not enough to write about anyway…I found myself in a quandary. After all, I don’t have ‘enough to say’ either. No one does. That’s why they write.

Of course, what is true…the gift of sensitivity is largely a curse. Feeling things acutely, sensing them peripherally…well, this works splendidly if you are a California mountain lion or Marcel Proust, being master of a deer-laden canyon in the Sierra or a room lined with cork. Let others find meaning in your days. Let the World Wildlife Fund or Penguin Classics decide if you are important. At home, you know you are.

But for most of us, life’s meaning comes in painful jabs and needlings. So to make it even more painful, you try to needle more effectively…via words. Which is why we want more from Bruce Rosen. Thus, my open letter. Knowing that if there’s anything a committed introvert doesn’t want, it’s an open letter…to him.

And what can one do but grow older? Wiser? Let someone else worry about that. Or worry about it in your blog. The world grows dark, the days grow short. Then the fucking thing lightens up and expands. Go figure. They say it’s your birthday.

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