Family and Relationships
The last time I was in London, I kept passing store windows full of tea towels and souvenir mugs with the motto Keep Calm and Carry On. I once read that when the British government dreamed up the slogan at the onset of World War II, the populace was insulted at being given advice that went without saying.
Recently I was invited to give a special lecture at the university where I teach. I accepted the invitation though, contrary to what my sons might tell you, I don’t really like to lecture.
A friend tells me, Back pain is always anger. I don’t believe him. Maybe, though, grief settles in the muscles there. That, I could believe.
I was twenty-six, working full time at the Bagelry in suburban Chicago, avoiding the future. The future did not seem like anything you could count on. Even in suburban Chicago, where Public Works employees smiled while scraping up roadkill, people were unhappy, desperate to convince themselves of something good. Desperate.
When my father died, he left two letters in separate envelopes, both marked “To be opened at my death.” One is addressed to my brother and me. The other is to his wife.
A Tribute To Brian Doyle
You believed that everything is a form of prayer, including laughter, including tears. Yes, you were a reverential man, but you weren’t stiff or boring or preachy or dour. Your essays were both concise — often just a page in length — and lush, your sentences as intricate and twisty as plants in a terrarium. You combined prose and poem (and prayer, you said) to bear witness to the miracles around us.
Once there were two hogs and a sow who lived in a sturdy pen outside an old man’s hut. Then the old man died. That morning, no one brought food to the pen; the next morning, no one brought food to the pen. By evening the animals were panicked and ravenous, the bottom of the trough licked smooth as tile.