Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throw the Ball

     One September morning in 2008, my friend Lou called to tell me that David Foster Wallace, my favorite living writer, had hanged himself.  Everything slowed, then stilled: tiny hexagons of porch screen filmed with dust, thirsty plants everywhere I looked.  Our garden emerging from a valiant August struggle, not pretty but still cranking out tomatoes.
     It took only an instant to understand that I would never again settle down with a new Wallace short story or novel opened before me like a feast.  It took longer to understand that his old work would now be read through the blurry, irritating filter of his suicide.
     Still two years away from getting my first dog, I understood this: when I had my first baby, I forfeited the right to climb Mt. Everest, skydive, and commit suicide.  I had signed up to keep myself alive and healthy for as long as possible, no matter how miserable I might be.
    He didn't have children.  But he had two dogs: Warner and Bella.  He had spoken about how he didn't like to leave them alone, even for a couple of hours.  He considered quitting writing and opening a dog shelter.
     I bounced from anger (Guess what, Mr. Wallace: you don't get to be my favorite dead writer!) to compassion: I can't imagine pain so great that you volunteer to leave this beautiful world one minute sooner than necessary.  It's a step beyond what we call "crippling pain" or "debilitating pain."  It's deadly pain.
     Now I have Ivy and Revel, whose needs are simple: give us some food and don't ever go away!  Unlike my children, they're never going to fire me.  So that contract I signed when my babies were born is more binding than ever.  Eat good food and drink lots of water. No extreme sports or texting while driving.  When I feel sad, get off my butt and do something for someone else.  Keep planting tomatoes, even though the hammer of August awaits.  Boys: I'll be here whenever you need me.  Dogs: I'll be here until you're not.  I'll throw the ball until I can't, and cheer when you bring it back.

P.S. Happy to be linking up with yeah write this week. 

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