Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Hello, Memory My Old Friend. Good to Talk with You Again

Oh damn. Next month I will be 61 and so I'm thinking about the things I said I would do during my days of 60 that I have not done.

I've done the blog. Good. I have not done the novel, which is not necessarily bad since I have a weakness for happy endings and where's the truth much less the art in that?

But most vexing I have not redeemed my pledge to reestablish contact with those old old friends from college days, grad school days and down South working days, all the friends all those times before we moved here more than 25 years ago. Haven't done it.

It's hardest getting back to those friends from the time when I was a good Christian boy because I have "fallen away" so far since those days. It's not as if I have become an Episcopalian or even a Unitarian. If anyone pressed me on the question -- and no one has so this comment is the expository equivalent of gratuitous nudity -- I would have to say I'm a generic agnostic and a Christian atheist. Yah, my old Christian friends would sure like hearing that. That will rekindle old feelings.

I was such a good boy. Let sleeping memories lie.

As for my post-Christian friends, it seems to me that there are three ideal shared elements when it comes to maintaining sporadic touch, and those are: new mates/ex-mates; children; jobs. These three categories enable correspondents to celebrate and bemoan simultaneously. No one likes a Christmas letter, since Christmas letters tend to be triumphal marches. But a nice email or phone conversation in which the participants deftly mix the good and the bad is very pleasant. It's like a tennis match in which the point is prolongation. A soft shot (my A student) gets a soft response (my gifted musician). A hard shot (my ex who disputes visitation rights) gets a matching hard shot (my ex who won't get a job). It's a nice dance, the point of which is that life is a compound of sad and glad, and that's something we still have in common even if shared experiences have grown dim or have been forgotten altogether.

But what if: same wife, no kids, a job whose pleasures and pains are subtle to the point of evanescence. That's me. Oh it's easy enough to reestablish contact -- once. But where do you go from there? (Face to face is easier. Just get drunk and remember the dead.)

Now this blog -- which is one long Christmas letter, kind of -- might be a way of maintaining touch with some old friends, and I've tried to use the blog for that a time or two. What those attempts have underlined is how much impersonality there is in a blog, how much I haven't exactly been honest about, if only through omission. This friend knows about that trouble at work, but that friend never did. She has heard all about that difficult moment in the marriage in the Eighties, but I gave him the impression my wife and I never had a sharp word. Even knowing only a little about the real You, blog-reading friends know just how thick the mask is and how much it disguises and misrepresents.

So my dear old friends. More digital photos of cats and vacations, more forwarded jokes, more comic birthday cards from the Hallmark collection -- that's just about enough, don't you think? I love you to death, but my body has completely reconstituted itself four times since those margaritas at Lenox Square. Who are we? Who were we? But let's keep in touch. Really.

Oh. If you get a Pulitzer, please just let it lie. We have plenty of mutual friends who will call to rub it in. But if your wife shoots you in the leg, hey, I'm here for you.

1 comment:

G Pabst said...

One of the better sign-off lines!
If, say in another - but parallel - universe, there's a "Write A Parody of M. Robertson Contest," I'll have to remember that paricular structure.
GP