I Become Food
Grace stories part 11
Yesterday was my Dad’s yahrzeit and my beloved brother and I met at the shul and said the holy kaddish for Harry. We didn’t talk much, we sat together and prayed. We’re brothers; what’s to say.
He was closer to Harry in some ways than I was. Harry always said he wasn’t going to make the same mistakes with my [little] brother that he made with me, and to his credit, he was much more involved with my brother than he was with me in our growing up. Harry often apologized to me on Father’s Day, in a rather formal way, something he felt he had to say but it hurt me that he felt that way. I couldn’t have loved him more in my mind and whatever mistakes he made passed me by. G*d knows I made a load of them in my little life.
Earlier in the day while taking Gracie into the pen I had a dog cookie in my hand and she mistook my hand for the cookie and clamped her canine jaw down on it and it hurt like hell and I couldn’t extract it for a long moment. I put her in the pen and began to bleed like crazy; she had the vice grips on my hand. Her jaw is strong; doggies are built to tear apart non-kosher flesh and she returned to praeternatural food gathering for a moment.
I bound up my middle finger on my right hand, the one that expresses my take on existence if left to my own unsocialized self, and went on with the day. I’ve had only interrupted sleep these last days and I was grumpy the entire day. Both my daughters and my sacred partner required or at least asked me to serve them, I did, but by the time of the evening prayers for Harry, my finger was throbbing and swelled and everyone I encountered got the authentic finger f**k you. I meant it.
My beloved brother saw my finger and when I told him the story he wrote me a script for antibiotic and told me what can happen when a canine bites that deeply into something like a finger. He explained what he learned dissecting a hand in medical school and how quickly an infection can spread up the tendons, etc., and then I would have a serious problem. I already knew as I had imagined it driving down Delmar the other day, wondering what sort of guitar for the left hand I could play, remembering Ravel who was commissioned by Wittgenstein’s older brother to write him a concerto after he lost his right arm in World War I – this in what I call my mind.
My brother is smart, an excellent scientist as well as a true person of compassion, he is in my mind the doctor equivalent of Atticus the lawyer. I listen to him. I went and filled the script and started the antibiotic right away. He generally doesn’t treat me but I could tell he thought this was serious enough to get on it right away. Man it hurt too.
I met everyone I knew waiting at the pharmacy, to all f**k you and I didn’t explain.
The compassion flagon was hard hard to refill; I was tapped. Gracie ate my hand, everybody wanted a different food, it was Passover, etc., though I made one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever eaten that my son and his girl dug into when they returned from the movies. Nice baked potato – simple, good fare. Salad.
I am preparing to go to the prison house this week. I generally bring a seder in a box with me during Passover; it’s peak experience. The offenders speak eloquently on all the implications of freedom, inner and outer. I wrote an Haggadah that treats the Passover experience as a ritual of inner liberation: on Purim we become one with each other, on Passover we become one with ourselves. This year I am taking a journalist with me and don’t know how to explain stopping to visit the camel.
How fragile the compassionate response is – so easy to dissipate. I thought I was immune. Even sleep can deplete the compassion reserves. I used to sleep in my boots wherever I lit; I’ve returned to those days and it’s not so terrible. At least I’m not sleeping in my car.
I put on a nice Hickey Freeman suit, established 1899, in order to get a tetanus shot. Jacob Freeman and Jeremiah Hickey, Rochester New York, they called their building The Temple. I bought the suit in Detroit, nicely tailored by Abraham the Lebanese artiste, etc., midnight blue worsted wool, gold pocket fold from Italy. Vintage.