I've been studying the problem of 'closure' since 2009. Been wanting to put a stone on my father's grave since he died. Figuring that maybe, magically and just perhaps, if there's no stone, he's really not down there at all. He's around the corner, picking up the Sunday NYT. He's at the Flea Market, chatting with his cronies. He's in India collecting artifacts. North Africa, being handed manuscripts and swallowing secret others. He's on some grand adventure, and I'm either out there with him, or, well, not. He's nowhere to be found.
It's all a grand adventure.
But put a stone on a grave, and it's like he just can't escape out the top anymore. The matzevah is pressing down too hard. The grass is growing 'round it, roots conspire to keep him down. Granite base, bronze plaque. It reads:
Collector, Protector, Magnes Founder and Director
I thought about what to say for all these long years—and now the deed is done. He's firmly fixed down under there. It's inescapable.
It wasn't just artifacts and manuscripts that he protected, although that's what he was known for. No, what he protected most of all was me. Seems more to the point than 'beloved father.'
And she's got closure too. I think she'd like what I finally came up with:
Teacher, Writer, Human Rights Fighter
These are the things that made her proud. Especially the 'fighter' part. Which is the part I always thought was unnecessary. But, well, whatever.
The point being—it finally does feel like closure. It really does. And she resisted it for so long when she was alive. Or maybe it was her anger he was gone. She herself had to wait one year as well—but that's expected. Within reason. He, on the other hand, was stoneless for four years.
I could feel him hovering, exploring, looking out for Judaica in the wee unlikely corners of the world. He was still out there on the hunt and prowl. And now, it's strange, he's not. Closure. He's happily ensconced. Just wishing that I'd bring him a pastrami sandwich from Saul's, heavy on the deli mustard.
They're in there. They're down there. They're under ground. They're quiet. Too quiet! Here's me. Up here. Still wanting to do them proud. Funny, I think about that now—making them proud—I never did before. Before. When they were alive, I did as I pleased. Studied what I wanted. Specialized in the not-usness that marks my chosen profession. But well, reprise: whatever. They like what I'm up to now.
Here's the weird thing. With closure, I seem to be able to write again. Though still the words are jerky, stiff and awkward. They don't flow. Watch them stumble across the line, almost embarrassed to take their places inside these clunky sentences. Oh well. At least it's writing. One word after another. A little rusty, sure. But real live actual words!
Is that what 'closure' does? Help us stumble on.
We wake up. And stretch. Clean the blech out of our eyes. Check ourselves out: Hmm. No broken bones, although the heart still aches. Is that what closure brings: Return to the land of the doing? Have we learned something yet? Are we a better person?
If so, I mean, well, this is America: Shouldn't there be a machine (or magic pill) that could do all this mourning for us quick and dirty? Help get us to the lessons of the closure side a helluva lot faster? Skip all that grief and pain, and go directly to 'just carry on'?
Or if no machine or pill has been invented, let's use the BigMac model. After all, we like to eat more than we like to labor.
I'll have my fries dipped in mourning sensitivity, (just not too much). A sprinkle empathy and sympathy, but only just a pinch. Gobble fast, greasy, and most of all, unthinking. Fast food for the bereaved. And then, you know, just let us rest in peace.
Will that work?