December 15, 2021
I haven't been to Texas since the unveiling of mom's headstone. The backpack I use when traveling has been in the closet a long time. In its pockets I find paper remnants from the Cuba trip in 2019.
I also unearth my pocket Koren siddur which I had given up for lost, and a wooden coin that reads (after Simcha Bunim) on one side "for my sake was the world created" and on the other "I am dust and ashes."
Flying for the first time in almost two years was always going to be strange. Flying for the first time during a global pandemic, even more so. Thankfully no one is belligerent about wearing a mask.
To make the day even more surreal, it turns out my local airport has been redone. New parking garage, new traffic flow, new everything. Delta still flies out of the B gates; at least that hasn't changed.
On the first plane I watch Roadrunner, the Tony Bourdain film. I loved his writing, and the way he brought the world into our living rooms. I loved how much he seemed to love the wide world.
There's a sense of dislocation in the film. The dislocation of travel, especially the kind of travel he did 250 days a year. The dislocation of a world where his light shines now only in memory.
My mother was still alive when he killed himself, because I remember talking with her about it a little bit. She was shocked. He seemed to have it all, she said more than once. She admired his work too.
Of course, Tony's suicide shapes the story. Not only his absence, but how much the people who knew him best miss him. I ached to see their anger and grief at his inability to stay in the world with them.
Then again, his loved ones didn't have to see him live to lose his words and his machete-sharp wit and his prodigious memory. Maybe he thought he was doing them a kindness, making his own exit.
Still, I'll bet his daughter would've chosen to get more time with him, even if that meant that she would one day endure the heartbreak of watching his mind and his memory and his awareness disappear.
Loss of memory is the most profound dislocation I can think of. It's often old memories that linger like cigar smoke. The hardest thing is making space to grieve what's been lost -- what's being lost.
Or maybe the hardest thing is grieving the losses without perseveration, without getting stuck in them. Feeling them, and then letting them go -- like the words and memories that recede into mist.