It was in Wales, on one particular afternoon, and my cousin Bob and I had just been for a walk. The latter being a somewhat puzzling term for anyone who knows me. But it was just that. I had risen from my wheelchair for the day’s constitutional. That is to say, leaning on Bob’s arm…no, that is not quite right, more arm in arm…while I limped, crutch in hand. And who cares about such details? I do. For before we ever get to the heart of the matter, there is the heart of the heart.
Of which Bob and I share quite a bit. We met in our early 20s, at a time when I was discovering…the kindest word that comes to mind…my cripple life. Bob was a newly discovered cousin. A newly discovered friend. We were family, and we were different, and we were complementary. And whatever is to be said, we were friends. And we remain so. Which explains why Bob had journeyed from his home in a Paris suburb to coastal, remote Pembrokeshire.
As for the walk, I do need to exercise. But there was much more. We were seated on the morning terrace, the summer sun intermittently flirting with the clouds. The churning maritime climate of Britain always present. Like background music at Trader Joe’s. Clouds that, as Jane noted, differ from the California variety. And against this meteorological background….
The emotional background. For Bob and I had been talking. American politics being our current focus, in particular the looniness of the nation’s Republican Party. Not that there isn’t plenty of looniness to go around. But that Bob had noted the partisan craziness, and from his measured and battle-hardened stance…he spent his life in international economics…well, this sparked a passion to get to the bottom of geopolitical things. I know of no one who can discourse on such topics more effectively. And we were into things, the passion of ideas, the puzzle of our maddening times. When I began to feel tense. Uncomfortably so, things in me tightening. Confidence withering. And why? Something about Bob. Or Bob and me. When we both lived in London in our early 20s, I looked up to him, felt the inferiority of my life, lack of career, lack of attainment, and so on. Was the sense of inferiority still alive? Who could say? But life being what it is, time also being what it is, damned if I didn’t see a solution.
Walk. Have a walk. Arm in arm, for exercise, yes. But really to break the emotional pattern. Whatever pattern I was in. The amount of physical energy required alone would shift things. Not to mention changing the interpersonal dynamic. Me needing help and receiving help, Bob giving it. Which echoes our relationship in the 1970s. But as this particular echo bounces back over the decades, it has a more pleasant reverberation. More a matter of closeness, less a matter of neediness on my part. Thus, our walk.
By which point we had come to Anthony Weiner, a most noisome topic during an otherwise pleasant holiday stroll. Who, it seemed to me, was a sort of child. For if Europeans are less concerned about sexual peccadilloes among their politicians, they are more focused on qualities of leadership. That’s why Berlusconi is so richly entertaining, at least in some quarters. There is a relative dullness about European leaders, which I count as a good thing.
About Bob’s next mission, back to the Middle East to try to convince leaders of a very troubled country that ethics are good for business. An uphill battle, Bob tells me. He’s not even sure how to approach the subject. And the fact that we recognize it as a subject says something about our own realities, whatever has shaped us. And that our roads, however different, have converged in this way. Here we are. Or there we were, schlepping and talking in Wales.
The very conversation growing out of personal and public struggles. I know less of Bob’s inner life. But he does have more of an outer life. That is to say, a more extroverted focus. Or so it seems. Whatever our personality types, we recognize the primacy of values and ideals – principally their apparent loss – in our modern world. And that I understand it’s my responsibility to care about the larger world, even though my effect on it may be very slight. I am proud of this. That despite losses, I still have something to give.
All of this triggered by reading of Michael Winston in this morning’s Salon.com. And feeling personally galled that Angelo Mozilo is still not in jail. It’s a confusing world. As is my place in it. But at least I have one. And it takes lifelong friendships, like mine with Bob, to remind me.