By G. David Schwartz
It happens to all of us. We put our pen down and, moments later, certainly twenty four hours later, it disappears. Items like our favourite pen or a book or a clasp, may be lost, but rarely are they cried over. On the other hand, when it comes to relatives or close friends, we may find ourselves in a well of tears. We may be sitting, let’s say, on the couch and we are writing a little remark which reminds us of a living person. We suddenly remember that we went to the zoo with him or her; we had a meal and talked about the future, the rest of our lives. We would never realise that later, days or years, Frankie would be in a fatal automobile accident, Sharon would be killed in a fire or that Bruce would be shipped off to the latest, the newest, Vietnam.
Many disappearances are flights into death. I will never forget my grandfather casually saying that “it happens to everyone.” Yes, far, far too many disappearances are explained by the loss of life. This makes me feel better when I am, for example, working at my computer and something I read prompts me to think of an old friend, like Alan.
Alan moved to another city. You may say this is not total disappearance, because I know what city he went to live and work in; I even know what he does for a living. Once or twice I tried to contact him, but it seems there were too many people with his name in that city. Or I may have just been too lazy to go all out to find him.
I began writing piece this about what will be said below but I can’t stop thinking that maybe I began this way hoping that Alan Paul would read and see that I, G David Schwartz, am still alive, still breathing, and still thinking about my best friend of the good old days, and still hoping that he is OK. Oh, well. That’s all I can do about that.
Sadly, people die. It’s like you know where they are, and you know they‘re not leaving. Like the dead, there is the living whose location you know, but you just can’t get in touch with for any number of reasons.
There is a third category which now seems the worst. A friend gets ‘lost’ – a term used to denote those who just disappear and are eventually forgotten about until maybe the next day, or even years later.
My cousin Jerry moved to a big city and was never heard from again. I tried to contact him back in the good old days to no avail. I even called his parents one day and asked about him. They gave me his telephone number. I called and found out he was at work. Over time I lost the number. Years later, I was cleaning the house (OK, honey, just my little room, mainly my desk!) and I found Jerry’s number.
Immediately, I called. The same voice which answered years ago said Jerry was in the hospital. I admit, a tear or two came to my eyes. Now, several years later, I wonder if I was sad because my cousin was ill, because I would most likely never see him again, or because I was reminded that we’re all getting old.
To quote my grandfather again, “it beats the alternative.”
I do apologise for the title of this little venture that I’ve made. But perhaps you can tell by the two quotes from my grandfather that disappearance is inevitable. And as long as we have a memory, a loved one, a relative, a friend or a household appliance (please do not be so foolish to believe I think they are on the same plane, get a sense of humour) will never completely disappear. Unless, of course, we let them fade away. There, how’s that? Place the burden of disappearance on our frail and fragile memory.
So be it.
Hey Alan, I am going to take my grandsons – yes I have grandchildren (do you?) – to the zoo this Thursday. Hope to see you there.
G. David Schwartz is the former president of Seedhouse, the online interfaith committee. Schwartz is the author of A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue and Midrash and Working Out Of the Book, and is currently a volunteer at the Cincinnati J Meals on Wheels. His latest book is Shards and Verse (2011, Publish America).