I think about Gran often. Her great smile greets me every morning from the front of the fridge; it’s the card my Aunt Shel made for her to send out over the holidays. (Her full biography, which I helped compose with Aunt Shelly, is available on the funeral home website, along with this wonderful photo gallery of her life.) I was at the dentist yesterday and she came to mind, notably how vigilant she was about caring for her teeth.
The dental hygienist and I also spent the majority of my appointment talking about death. I’m not sure how we got there, but it struck me that mortality is such an interesting topic to discuss with a near stranger. It started with her telling me that Robin Williams’s children were being jerks about what they wanted from his estate. And then she said that her own children, when her second husband died, were similarly grabby. (“My husband offered his eldest son that beautiful Steinway piano for many years, and his son always rejected it. But then as soon as my husband died, guess what they were all fighting over? Yep. That old piano.”) She concluded by saying that it was wise to go ahead and give your kids the stuff they wanted of yours, instead of letting them duke it out after your death. And that life is short. And we never know when we’re about to go.
What could I leave you? The dogs. You could take them; Pyrrha would not want to live alone with Guion after my passing. He may want to keep Eden, though, because she loves him. You can have my carefully sorted wardrobe and my books. I do not have many possessions that anyone would want to tussle over. Give it all away. I do not take much stock in harboring or hoarding sentimental objects.
I am reading a lot again. Particularly, I’d like to fill some gaps in my knowledge of the Western canon. But I’m never really in the mood to revisit Chaucer or Milton. I also have no desire to slog through Don Quixote. And I’d rather watch a hundred nights of NFL than read Dickens again. (I’ve read enough Dickens! Five novels should be enough! Don’t tell me I have to read Bleak House too!) Does this make me a bad reader? Possibly. But I also feel unapologetic about my taste. I think that’s the mark of pretension. You stop caring about “ought” when it comes to art and culture. And this makes you a less lovable person, but I think it’s somewhat inevitable, when you start to develop a specialty in any subject. People love you less. But you don’t care, because you’re right. And that brings you (me, I’m really talking about me) comfort.
Another recent obsession: learning French and refreshing my knowledge of Japanese. I hope to sign up for an actual beginner’s French class next semester, but in the meantime, I’m teaching myself through the Duolingo app, which is really quite wonderful/addictive.
Learning French has been SO refreshing! After spending about 10 years intermittently studying Japanese, I honestly had no idea that foreign languages can be so easy. I had never tried a romance language before. (As much as I love Japanese, what a grave mistake! If I had invested as much time in French as I have in Japanese, I’d be fluent. No doubt. I could read Proust in the original. Surely. Instead, I know the slimmest margin of Japanese, my abilities having diminished steadily each successive year after college graduation.) But French! What a lark! What a breeze! I can actually read the words, right off the bat, without having to learn three different alphabets! What a marvelous language.
Mastering French pronunciation is going to be grim, however. My tongue is entirely molded by the neat, clipped Japanese sounds that I picked up when I was 11. Speaking French feels impossible. Those sexy French consonants and lusty vowels, they seem utterly beyond powers of my mouth. Que pouvez-vous faire?