Wednesday, June 09, 2004

What's to be said?

Daily life is diminishing somewhat. The leg is becoming more painful, maximal dosage of Ibuprofen is no longer enough. It is hard to get both legs into the tub to take a shower, it is hard to get both legs into my jeans, it is hard to take the fresh cup of coffee back to bed without spilling any.

The focus of my daily life is mainly doing my best to make other people comfortable with what is happening to me. Anything less is not acceptable to them, because actually it is they, not I, who are in denial. Is that even grammatical, is it really correct? I mean, is it true?

Well, thank heavens for strangers.

There is a Korean market at the corner of 54th and B'way. A year or so ago, I picked up a cup of coffee there at 6 a.m. every morning on my way to Temple for morning prayer. Two Korean men worked that particular shift, one very small, older man, and one very large, handsome young devil. We always found something to laugh about. Yesterday afternoon, I went there to pick up a small fruit salad, and the handsome young devil was behind the desk.

"Long time no see," he grinned at me.

Then: "What happened to the foot?"

"It's not the foot, it's the leg, it's broken," I grinned back.

"Hah?" he packs my fruit salad in a plastic bag, "Is it getting better?"

"No," I laugh, "It's getting worse."

"Hah?" he giggles, "So, what next?"

"I guess I just die."

We both break out in manic laughter.

"Take care of yourself," he pleads solicitously, as I hobble out the door.

Actually, it's incorrect to call this young man a stranger, even if we don't know each other's name.

* * * * *

Janna has gone into deep mourning for President Reagan. Janna is very much into appearances, and "he was soooooo warm", she loved him, and she always loved the way Nancy dressed. We can't talk about these things at all, at all.

Janna spends a lot of her time on the phone. She keeps in touch with dozens and dozens of people. For starters, the 25 odd women who attended kindergarten with her, way back when. She also keeps up with the various families and the surviving grown-up children of those friends of hers who have already died. She is the only one among them who is not a grandmother, and that is because her only son was born with a heart defect which could not be fixed in those days and he died of heart failure before he was nine.

Janna has one older sister, who lives somewhere in a country that once was a part of the Soviet Union (Lithuania, I think, maybe...). They talk regularly. Part of their ongoing relationship centers on telling each other jokes, which in the Russian parlance is referred to as "anecdotes".

It goes like this:

The sister: "Can I tell you an anecdote?"

Janna: "Please, go right ahead."

Silence. Then the sister begins to laugh.

Janna: "What?"

The sister: "Sorry, I can't remember it. But it is very funny," followed by peals of laughter.

Janna: "Hahahahahahahahahahaha!"

Yesterday, Janna reported to me:

"I talked to my sister today." Laughter. Pause.

"She wanted to tell me an anecdote. I said, Go ahead. Then, there was a long, deep, really deep silence, you know... So, I encouraged her, Go ahead, I'm listening. So, she said: 'Please go on talking, I need to relax, I need to concentrate.' So, I kept on talking and my sister kept silent, concentrating. And then, after a while she said: 'It's no good, I can't remember what it was about, but it was really very good, you would have loved it'."

Janna and I crack up.

"I told her to ask her daughter when she comes home," Janna laughed, "And to make sure to write it down on a piece of paper and call again tomorrow and read it to me."

I myself can't wait to hear this super memorable joke.
I know what it's like to break a leg. I'm one of those clumsy people who made it a habit of breaking a bone a year growing up (and even several times as an adult). Believe it or not, the bones heal. And you always appreciate the freedom of movement more afterwards. In the meanwhile, chant, meditate, and laugh whenever possible.
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