Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Thank You Letter Written On An Old Typewriter

The day he died we took the kids to Stafford Lake, only the lake was low, the bed cracked and brackish and dry. Zoey pulled up sheets of hardened mud and goose shit, said it was dinosaur skin; Ozzy ran for the water line. I took deep breaths of cold air feeling impossibly, stupidly still. How can the world go on without everyone realizing everything has been forever changed?
I guess everyone who loses someone feels that, the After a strange landscape of surreal estate wherein you stand in line buying groceries wanting to scream that something has happened, can't anyone see? The thing is--and I don't mean to minimize anyone else's pain--but I know with an absolute objective certainty that the world truly has been changed by him being in it, from the shift of fossils tapped from the ground to his family, friends and students, people lucky enough to know his absurd wit and love firsthand. He was a man made for stories told in circles leaning inward, and if the universe tried for a hundred billion years it would not be able to create another him, the way he tipped his hat and put together words, everything about him measured, bespoke, curious and kind.

I'm not sure what any of this means except that the Minoans were a bronze-aged maritime civilization that flourished from the 27thC to 15thC BC, and that once upon a time when I was little the adults were all playing Trivial Pursuit by the fire of a New Year's Eve and nobody knew the answer until I answered, Minoans. The way he looked at me then: I was smart, really fucking smart; he was so proud of me and I have spent the rest of my life trying to prove him right even though I can't even remember what the question was.
Of course this post is not enough either, too many words jumbled when I saw just a sliver of the story. The truth is I hardly ever sent thank you cards even though I knew they meant something to him and I should have said thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It means something, and what is left now is me standing stupidly still thinking that Stafford Lake is probably a man-made lake anyway, created not by millions of years of slow-meandering pressure or even tectonic uplift, but by someone saying This. Here. This is where a lake will be, the vast indifference of it all made bearable only through love.

Farish A. Jenkins, Jr.
More tributes to my uncle here, hereherehere, here, here, here, here, here and here. And that is just a surface search; undoubtedly there will be more to come, which just goes to show how amazing he was.

13 comments:

Zakary said...

I am SO flipping sorry.

I wish it wasn't so hard, but goodbyes are a sonofabitch.

xx

Zak said...

I am SO flipping sorry.

I wish it wasn't so hard, goodbyes are a sonofabitch.

xx

Kirsten @Apothecasf.com said...

My goodness, what a personality. And, what a person, I'm sure. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Mornings with Milo said...

Oh, he sounded phenomenal! What a legend, truly he must have been one of a kind. I'm so sorry for your loss and the thousands of others that had the joy of knowing him, even for a semester! Your words, as always, are beautiful and original and, clearly, it is evident you have some of your uncles' spunk! Again, thank you for sharing. What a life!

mdkramer said...

Sorry to hear of your loss and really the world's loss. He was one of my favorite professors and mentors. One summer I received a postcard from him written on the back of an old Oyster box from the middle of nowhere Greenland. It is amazing, yet not surprising, to see how many people's lives he truly touched. My thoughts and prayers are with you and the rest of your family.

Matt

Linda G said...

What an absolutely beautiful tribute. He knew you had a thank you in your heart, never doubt that. I am so sorry for your loss, your family's loss and the world's loss!!!

Nancy Fastenau, Fastenau and Associates said...

It is so true that we need to be sure to say what we feel to those we love when we feel it, rather than later, when it might be too late. I think of that often. Thanks for reminding me.
Love, Nancy

katie said...

"a bullwhip" and "charm" were his weapons....what insane tributes. i'm so sorry for this.
love,
katie

Susannah said...

Thank you all :)

Petunia Face said...

Thank you all :)

sweetbittertart said...

Such a beautiful tribute. I can feel how very much you love him. I'm so sorry. xo

Patti-atti said...

My condolences on your loss. So nice to see he left such a strong legacy. He will live on, forever :)

Sherri said...

I am so sorry.