Mother Died Today

“Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.” The opening lines of Albert Camus’ The Stranger have been hovering in my head since Friday, the day my own mother died–in a nursing home, as does Meursalt’s mother. I don’t want to sound too pretentious, too literary when I say lines from literature come to mind when I learned my mom had died. Actually, Friday morning, when my sister called to tell me, she said, “Mom passed.” That’s how I heard it. That euphemism for finality, implying this death was a temporary thing, not an end, but a movement, a shift from the physcical into the spiritual, an afterlife. These days I’m agnostic–I can’t make up my mind about God, much less an afterlife, although all throughout this weekend, even at the end of the funeral as I stood around talking to cousins I knew and to distant relatives I didn’t know, I kept imagining Mom and Dad (though divorced almost ten years) floating somewhere in the clouds, together, all the past forgiven, Dad foregoing the soul of his second wife to reunite with his first. Happiness would come to them, though it had stopped here on Earth a decade ago. Or, maybe, several decades ago; I can’t be sure.

“Mom passed.” Those words are less blunt than Monsieur Meursalt’s. “Died” is a journalist’s word, and Camus was a journalist; I work in journalism. It’s definite, certain–“Mom died,” final, no more. Supposedly objective and not surrounded by connotations, at least as the journalist uses it, “died” means what it says, says what it means: there is no possibility of an afterlife, no speculation, no nonsensical bullshit; such things are for clergy and philosophers; journalists are neither, they have no opinions either way. Mothers and fathers cannot reunite and forgive and forget. That’s sentimental, and something you cannot prove. But, today, despite my agnosticism, I want to imagine my mother happy and my father happy, that maybe they saw each other in some after-realm, somewhere–maybe on some spiritual facsimile of the train where they met–Mom is able to walk without pain, with no Parkinson’s tremor in her arm; and Dad is able to talk without pain, no cancerous white blood cells overloading his body. I can’t be sure. Only, for now, it’s what I want.

The Man in Black

Last night, while working on writing, I kept the TV on–a bad thing–;but CBS was running a tribute to Johnny Cash. This tribute turned out lackluster, a half-assed attempt to bring together generations of musicians and singers, odd pairings such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Kid Rock singing Cash songs with about as much enthusiasm as a stifled orgasm, all the muscle work without the pleasure. It seemed just an hourlong ad for the new film Walk the Line, of which there were a few clips shown that had already been shown as trailers in theaters or on the Web. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, the film’s stars, made their appearances, plugging the film. Nothing really new or interesting was said about Cash or his career. And sadly several of the performers, including Lewis and Kris Kristoferson, tried to imitate Cash’s signature wavering voice and style. I just hope the film doesn’t disappoint as much as this ad for it did. Johnny Cash deserves better.

Better Late Than Never

I share a trait with Kevin Smokler, the editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times: I’m never on time for any cultural trend, and I’m lagging way behind on blogging. I’ve tried it inconsistently for about two years now, but have never had a real focus in any of my blogs. Maybe this one won’t be focused either. In general, I want to talk about books and art and movies and other cultural phenomena; at the same time, I’m interested in letting you in on a little bit of my life, as Pam Ribon does at pamie.com. And, I’ll try to update this thing more often. Perhaps I’ll actually gain some readership–become a famous blogger.