My dad is a pianist, but one of his fingers doesn’t work. It’s the middle finger on his left hand. I guess he can’t really flip anyone off with that one now.
It’s the diabetes, of course. The same thing that paralyzed his stomach. And this is a man who takes meticulous care of himself. Who knows all the research. Who wrestles ferociously for control as his body cleverly eludes him again and again. As his body works constantly towards destroying itself. Disease is so strange. It’s like, don’t you want to stay alive, body? Isn’t that supposed to be the only thing you want? Why can’t we agree on this one?
I am beginning to prepare to lead high holidays services, the way I do every year. I take the train out to NJ to meet with the rabbi I work with, and we stand on the bima in the empty sanctuary and make our way through the fat holiday prayerbook, practicing, arguing over the details, bursting into occasional songs from Fiddler on the Roof (yes, really). We have been known to dance around. We find each other funny. We sing in harmony sometimes and we grin the whole time.
On the train, on the way to our meetings, I get this familiar urge to read old journals. The same thing happens at this time every year. The high holidays, Rosh Hashanah (our new year) and Yom Kippur (our time of repentance and renewal), are a soul-searching, gut-wrenching, emotionally complex time. And I think the approach of autumn contributes to their drama. There’s this feeling of near-death that glides up in the smell of the foliage in the park. That is hanging behind the humidity. Things will die again, there’s an end in sight, and it will happen whether or not you are ready. The summer is inevitably faster than I expected. I’m whisked through it, and everything restarts again. It’s hard to keep track of who you are in the midst of all this transition.
So I pile old journals into my backpack and I read on the train. It turns out that I have had some funny moments! And also that I am a little insufferable. And sometimes embarrassingly melodramatic. I hope that no one else ever reads my journal. I also hope that it gets published. But only a few select parts, where I am clever. The interesting thing about a journal is that you can totally tell where you are lying to yourself. You know what I mean?