Monday, March 16, 2009

generational wisdom

I'm old enough now where it's going to happen more and more often -- someone I know, or know of, is going to die. Today, it was Ron Silver, the formerly liberal actor who had a Road to Damascus moment after 9/11, and spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Silver died from a cancer he had been battling for two years. I hope that his family and friends can gain some comfort, knowing that his suffering is over now.

I'm reminded of a hospital conversation I had with my Dad: Nothing lasts forever. Knowing that, you can savor the sweet moments attentively and endure the bad ones with grace. His suffering ended, too.

That life lesson reminded me of another, from my Nana, my father's mother. We were living in Dorchester, and she was staying with us. I may have been around 7 or 8 years old. I saw her stoop down to pick up something from the floor of the hall, a piece of thread or scrap of paper that didn't belong there. I asked her why she had done that -- she was there for a visit, not to clean the house, why did she bother? If I don't do it, who will? she said. To me, this was an entirely new attitude towards something that needed to be done: the idea of taking responsibility. When you're a little kid, it doesn't occur to you that you have that kind of power, or that kind of obligation. Nana had it down cold. If she could do it, she would, and not leave it for someone else to do -- nor would she ever make work for someone else if she could avoid it.

I am not as diligent or observant as I should be in following Nana's example, but I still remember it, going on forty years later. The real trick is teaching it to my own kids. I haven't quite figured that out yet.

1 comment:

Curtis said...

If you think I'm going to die, you are not allowed to tell me.