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CHARACTERISTIC – I like books. I like movies. I love musicals. I like games. I love science museums and art museums. I love anthropology museums and natural history museums. I like live music. I love the symphony. I love poetry and Netflix and podcasts and news. I even like opera a little.
Or, perhaps, a more accurate statement is that I want to love opera. I want to feel the Italian soprano resonate in my body and cry in the face of tragedy.
One of my favorite movies is Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It is a tender story of rejection, love and redemption. Its young protagonist, a ward of the state who moved from foster home to foster home, learns to write haiku as a therapeutic expression of his anger. And in hopes of redirecting his delinquent behavior.
In one such haiku, Ricky Baker expressed his frustration over an enemy in the foster care system: “Kingi, wanker / Motherfucker, I hate you in a heap / Please die soon, in pain.”
If you laughed earlier, you’re supposed to. It’s funny.
Ricky is all poetry, not action. Well, especially no action. Except for the part of the movie (which is a big part of the movie) when he’s on the lamb with his adoptive uncle, Hec, and chased by a crazed child services worker.
But back to art, music and museums. I like all these things because they make me feel. They make me think. And they make me analyze myself. And the world around me.
They make me reflect and rethink important issues. Ricky Baker and his irreverent haiku included.
What is love? What is friendship? What is beauty? How to get out of suffering? What lasts? What do I hope to leave behind?
I especially thought a lot about this last question. And not only because of the art that I love. But because of life. Because two of my dearest friends are fighting for their lives.
Both are women of character, strength and light. Both are mothers, lovers and warriors. And both have cancer.
We finished chemotherapy on Thursday. The doctors think she will win her fight. The other dear friend won’t. This will be his last spring.
She gave our circle of friends the heartbreaking news last week.
In turn, we filled her living space with paper hearts in shades of pink, purple, blue and lime with messages of love, shared experiences and jokes. We stocked her kitchen counter with dark chocolate, fluffy socks, homemade treats, and bath tubs.
In the hope that our love will make a small dent in the pain and loss to come. Because what else can we do but love him and let him know?
Shortly after the “heart attack,” I took a mid-morning walk to the post office and listened to a Modern Love podcast from March 16. of this year to help me process. It was aptly titled “A Mother’s Wild and Extravagant Love”.
The episode was about a mother who, before dying of cancer, prepared gifts for every childhood birthday and letters for every coming-of-age event, such as the first period and getting the university degree, which her children would score without her.
She left the gifts and letters in two cardboard boxes — one for each child — that she had purchased from Ross for $29.99.
It was beautiful and tender and heavy. I cried the whole walk.
I have no doubt that my dying friend will make her own preparations before walking through the next door. She is German after all and the most practical woman I have ever known.
I know it will probably be different from the mother of the Modern Love podcast. Corn, nevertheless, it will be filled with wild and extravagant love. And it will probably be shaped by art in some way. Because she loves everything too. Especially opera. Maybe that’s why I’ll keep trying to love her.
In the meantime, I’ll channel my inner Ricky Baker and rely on haiku to process my grief: Cancer, you wanker / Motherfucker, I hate you a lot / His love will remain.
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