We talked of tragedy today. I told him about losing my brother, Duncan. He would be 62 years old now and he has been gone 29 years. It seems hard to fathom when I put numbers to his life.
My friend is 82 years old. His view of this journey is so much broader than mine. After a bowl of berries with cream and a cup of tea, he wanted the comfort of his electric lounge chair. We settled down; he with his feet up and a cozy Irish wool blanket, I cross-legged on the end of his hospital bed reading, again, Mark Twain’s Diary of Adam and Eve. I listened to his gentle snores and silently turned the pages. He roused, without opening his eyes, readjusted the chair and went back to napping. After several of these readjustments, he sat himself up, looked over at me and said, “I am thinking of your family tragedy. I wish to speak of tragedy.” I sat at his feet and he told a story, much of it was in German. His English was so thick with his accent I had to concentrate to catch his words. He was 6 years old when World War II started in Germany and 12 years old when it ended. My father served in Germany in World War II. This was a different perspective on a place and time I find hard to comprehend; his memories as a child living amid the terror vs. the history I have read and stories my father told.
Then we fell into a rhythm. It didn’t matter what language the storyteller uses, the human condition is universal and emotion drives the conversation. Life will include unimaginable sadness. It will bring insurmountable joy. You can’t pick and choose.