Diary in the Time of Coronavirus (6)
by Paul Hudon
Today would be Bob’s 95th birthday, my aforementioned brother, the navy guy. He died in November 2013, ‘’in the 89th year of his age.’’ I prefer that antique way of telling a person’s age. It’s more accurate because it includes the first year that gets lost when we celebrate our first birthday and forget that in fact it’s the first day of our second year.
There’s been a fair bit of longevity in our family, first prize going to great-aunt Melanie who died in her 106th year. With all her faculties, save for some loss of hearing. Her dad died two months shy of his hundredth birthday. The years between his birth, 1832, and her death, 1991, make for an impressive life-span. I drove up to Valleyfield, P.Q., in ’83, interviewed aunt Melanie. From there she and I went up to Hébertville, by Lac St Jean, to the homestead her father and his father had cleared back in the 1840s. That was quite a heady trip for me, added other rooms to my geography which Melanie and I furnished together.
Bob’s widow, Terry, is now resident at the Saab Building on the d’Youville campus. On a locked ward, the virus nonetheless found her. She recently tested positive and survives. “With a mild cold,” according to her son, David. Terry — née Thérèse Loseau — started into her 83rd year at the end of March.
All these people, in this city and all over the world — urbi et orbi — pushing off the inevitable. Consciously pushing off the inevitable. We’re all so suddenly biological.
Talk of suddenly. I’ve never been big on sweets, stopped sugaring my coffee half a century ago. But all of a sudden, it seems, I yearn for ice-cream and danish and such. And just as suddenly, the Great Coordinator in the Sky put this on my screen. ‘Kuchisabishii’ Is The Japanese Word That Explains Why We’re Eating Mindlessly
“The term, which means ‘lonely mouth,’ speaks to why many on lockdown have been snacking more than ever.”
Well, there’s that explained. And in Japanese, with a word that’s already a mouthful. Ain’t language grand!
Careening around YouTube I find this video from last month, Who Were The Denisovan Humans?
Accent on the past tense, who were the Denisovans?
Do we really need to be told just now that this variant of ourselves went bust? Yes. That’s exactly what we need to be told. A reminder that there is no telos, not in biology. Life on its own has no purpose except to be. The paradox we humans need to resolve — our current opportunity — is the paradox Calvin clarified centuries ago: It’s not about us and we’re responsible. Think ‘parent.’
That we need to be told is our quandary because we’re alone able to tell it.
Our life has no purpose except we choose one. It’s on us.
Last word on that, from Thomas Mann — ‘For the sake of goodness and love, man shall let death have no sovereignty over his thoughts.’
Family matters again. Today is the birthday of the sibling most near to me in age, Chanel. At work they called him, No. 5, or just plain 5. For years he was a sheet-metal worker at a candy factory of all places. “I’m in sheet metal,” he’d say, “I ring hollow.”
Only he didn’t. He was one of the most solid people I ever knew. And generosity itself.
In 1929, the family lived in Lawrence, St Anne’s Parish, which is how it happened he got his unusual name. The order of priests at St Anne’s, or maybe it was the nuns, I never got that straight, was founded by Peter Chanel, the patron saint of Oceania. Peter Chanel was beatified in 1889 and canonized in 1954. Parents of male children born in the parish during the 20s were encouraged to spread the name. So it was done. Years later, while on staff of the Merrimack Valley Textile Museum, I met the bookkeeper whose husband was named Chanel. Same story.
Chanel died in July of last year at d’Youville Senior Care. Burial has not yet been because his body is at the Boston University Medical School. Chanel was born with a cranial structural anomaly. True to form, he thought to make that useful to someone.
On reflection, why did I pick up that cash and the coins? It was mine, the change of a twenty, but how could I be that stupid? That’s the worst of it, far’s I’m concerned. Always and everywhere, not ‘putting the wrong foot forward,’ not touching, not picking up cash, finding out later the move was fatal. Like boarding that statistically insignificant flight.
Renovations and renewals. I got a new vac finally. I’ve been weeks without one and the place was getting to look like no one lives here. A thought way too close to the bone. Also, the trees came in leaf, the way they do, when you’re not looking. This means I lose sight of the bridge and the head of the falls. I’ll take the deal.