Monday, January 29, 2007

Long, Strange Trip

I'm back.

I'm tired. It was a long, heavy, strange weekend in which I said goodbye forever to one old friend, started to see another old friend in a completely new light, saw and cried and laughed with any number of other old friends, got confused, got sad, got happy, got drunk, got sober and altogether crammed more into four days than really could possibly fit there. Forgive the resultant disjointed prose; I drove for 9 hours today; I haven't slept more than 4 hours at a stretch since last Thursday and, well, there you have it. Adrenaline is our friend. And coffee. Coffee is our other friend.

My great and good friend Michel Zeltzman died at home after Tibetan Buddhist prayers, on Friday at 12:55 pm. I was too late to say goodbye but his family was wise enough to keep him there for a day and night after his death and so, in a way, I did. I knew him for 20 years as a good friend, a father figure of sorts (I keep tearing up on one sentence that runs through my head: I've run fresh out of fathers now) an inspiration, a help - everything a close friend should be. Michel gave me books and the New Yorker every year for years, signed Uncle Vibius. He yelled at me when I needed it and poured wine for me when I needed that more than yelling. Once he told me that I should have been a kings' courtesan, which I still consider one of the nicest compliments I ever got. He introduced my son to Welsh mythology and paid my daughter $5 to learn The Jabberwock off by heart. He sat with me all one long long night in the Johns Hopkins emergency room when I panicked after my marriage and thought I was dying. He corrected my French, encouraged me to read Proust (I rebelled, but I'm thinking I'm going to try it again) and emailed me snippets from the New York Review of Books. He was the first person into the room after my son was born. His wife and daughters and son are among my closest friends; my son came very close to being born in his house; I consider myself honored and lucky to have been able to be there with them these past few days.

When my father died I thought it was the most intense few days of my life. These past four days, when my other father died, are right up there as well. I have kind of learned a lot about family, or remembered it: to wit, families are more than just the people you are related to. This is my family, up there in Baltimore, and I grieve for and with them, and love them and they love me.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

beautiful, F.
S

Lee H. said...

Welcome home, and wow, that's a really moving account of losing your friend. *hug*

I saw your pics on Flickr, too, and his family and your other Baltimore friends look like such great people. You're very lucky to have friends like those.

Anonymous said...

love's labour is never lost.
m

Anonymous said...

I'm thinkin' about you. Try to take it a little easy, K?

Eideteker said...

I was thinking about you.

My best.