By Larry Feisntein
I woke up this morning at precisely 5 a.m., and I know this for a fact because Alexa set the alarm last night. I did my regular Zen sit in front of a small altar, with a little Buddha, sculpted by a friend from decades ago in New Mexico. I set the iPhone for 25 minutes. I usually peek twice during the sit and time never feels the same.
This gets us to today’s inescapable theme, at least for me, about the time of our lives. I was shocked to read that Anthony Bourdain had killed himself. It immediately pushed me very deep into the middle of a muddle I’ve been in for a number of weeks now.
Every May for the past 15 years, the passing of my mother and my birthday are wound tightly around each other. Hell, while we’re at it, we can throw Kaua‘i into the furnace of feelings for month number five. For obvious reasons, I have been having birthdays long before the death of Ida, so I guess we can start with that anniversary first.
I have realized a profound change in how I view virtually everything in my life. I am really not sure I could say I have had a full on, 90-degree turn in the road ever before. No, I am not about to diminish a single feeling I’ve ever had at any point in my life. I swear to God, there is something really weird that has happened to me and it has everything to do with my birthday, when life here began for me. It’s like time has finally put enough weight on the scale, to start moving it in the opposite direction. I’ve got a good one for you. It feels like I am now being forced to be a lefty, having to relearn even something like twirling pasta on a fork. Seriously, think about how testing that would be!
As a lifelong runner, I remember seeing the finish line at the New York City Marathon in 1982, and I’ve got a picture on the wall to prove it. When I saw the flags and crowds in Central Park, I knew I had done one of the most incredible things in my life, maybe equalled, but never surpassed. I felt good with the finish line in sight. I am now 73 and still running, but I know the race has changed and the finish line is still there.
When Ida was 92, she had a massive stroke. It happened the night before I was to board a one-way flight to Kaua‘i, my strange, new home. I learned to love my mother much more as I got older. Years ago, I would bring my young boys to visit her and she burned so bright with affection for them. My brother and I were forced to confront some unbelievably tough stuff in relation to our mother. She was a terrific lady, who made incredible sacrifices for me and Mo. Our debt to her was incalculable and it was life’s poetry that the two of us would come together to let her leave on her terms, her time.
So, you get the idea that May has some meaning for me. When my mother died, I was in my late fifties. Ida passed with a kind of grace and elegance that left me feeling eternally anointed by her love and so grateful to have known her all those years.
Now, Anthony Bourdain, famous for his unique take on life has taken his own. So many of us think we would be happy if we had it all. My very first thought was this guy had to be in a kind of crippling pain that could choke his young daughter and all those who cared about him. I was already feeling kind of raw, close to tears with my birthday revelations and revisiting the letting go of my mother.
The privacy of the mind is only known to each of us and no other. I am so saddened by Bourdain’s excruciating, secret pain and his self-inflicted wound. Then, I think of my mother’s choice to end her life and to count on my brother and myself to help her leave. Life can be so fragile and so resilient and proud.
I have turned into Central Park and I am positive the finish line is somewhere around a bend in the road. I start to cry and my legs begin to give out. I decide that after this unbelievably shocking effort, I am going to cross that finish line and save the crying for later, maybe never.
RIP Anthony and Ida.
- Visit mindandthemotorcycle.com for more stories from Larry.