Tears, idle tears, I know full well their use

OK, so I’m showing off, quoting Tennyson in the title of this essay — the latest intended for a small-press project, started (ironically enough) before my recent health issues: a collection of literary essays on the subjects of mortality and memories titled ‘Man Has Premonition of Own Death, the headline on a 1920s newspaper article about an ancestor’s surreal and terrible demise.

Anyway, here’s the latest essay:


It’s a trait I inherited from my late father. I well up with tears when George Bailey’s brother shows up at the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ — and it happens every time, and even though I’ve seen that movie a hundred times, Zuzu’s damned petals still make my lip quiver.

Worse, really dumb and embarrassing things can make me emotional — like once I stumbled upon a TV show called ‘Undercover Boss’ and the CEO of some fast-food chain gave some well-deserving employee a new car, $25,000 and a family vacation, and I nearly bawled and blubbered like some operatic Italian clown.

Today, though, was different. After emergency surgery several months ago, followed by another medical crisis nearly two weeks ago, I resumed treatments this morning – still confident, feeling fine, but bloated, practically bald, and wary about the effects of this latest round of therapy. A very caring and sweet nurse asked me about my latest ‘adventure’ — and I filled up with tears, couldn’t talk for 10 seconds, and accepted a tissue.

I suppose it’s a good thing to acknowledge. Being sick doesn’t just suck — it’s also sad, and something to think about, and significant, so it would be weird and unnatural to not get emotional about it once in a while.
And I’m fine now: watching some TV and reading some old essays by Annie Dillard, catching myself daydreaming about trips I’d like to make (to Alaska, to my grandparents’ village in Italy – and for yet another writing residency at a beloved artists’ colony in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains) – and hoping someone comes along and gives me $25,000 and a vacation and a new car…and a handful of Kleenex, because…well, there’s that thing about me and Zuzu’s petals….






The glory that was grease?

I’ve been recuperating and relaxing for the past four days, staying with my mother, and I’ve been letting her pamper me – including cooking meals – as I regain my strength and energy.

So one day she’s making grilled cheese sandwiches on this really old looking flat skillet and says “Your grandfather used to make grilled cheese on this.”

What?! Grandpa Nash! My grandpa died 51 years ago. That’s one old goddamned skillet. That’s a hell of a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches. I want that griddle someday!

Wait! There’s more! The next night, Mom was boiling something for dinner. When she was done, and had washed out the pot, she held it up and said, “This pot is more than 60 years old. I bought it when I got engaged.”

My mother is still using a cooking pot that she bought years before I was born! I want that skillet and I want that pot!

I guess there’s no point to this, other than some vague notion that the big and expensive and spacious skillet given to me by my daughter a few months ago is a great skillet, but it now seems like some sort of poseur, some kind of upstart, a kitchen utensil that may never, to really stretch this and allude to one of those fancy old English poets, acquire the glory of my Mom’s old cooking pot nor gain the grandeur of my grandpa’s old skillet.