When my brother Eric was here to say goodbye to Mom, he and Tim and I had the most important conversations that the three of us had ever had. I'm very pleased at what an extraordinary man Eric has turned out to be.
We talked a lot about accepting and letting go. Like me, Eric has had trouble doing both.
Speaking strictly for myself, I had to learn to accept and let go as a matter of survival. I blew up my immune system with my refusal to accept and let go. Enough was enough; I wanted to live, and I didn't want to be unhappy all the time. I believe that Tim and I have been able to explain things in such a way that Eric will avoid the mistakes Tim and I made.
Most of what I've had to accept and let go of will remain private because it involves others. Letting go of people was the final step in my transformation. It's always painful. I've known some of these people all their lives. Some I held in my arms when they were babies. Those are the hardest to let go. You remember them wearing their little shoes or taking their first steps or saying their first words.
Paradoxically, that which is painful can also sustain. My memories of these former babies are both sad and beautiful. It's true that the promise their lives held was not fulfilled, but several things keep me from giving in to despair.
Firstly, I believe that we all get more than one chance at this. I've seen more than enough evidence to convince me. We get to come back and try again.
Secondly, I now believe that everyone—everyone—knows the right thing to do. When they choose to not do the right thing, it's their free will coming into play. Why does that comfort me? It's hard to say. An analogy is that when I hear an annoying noise, it gets less annoying when I know what's making it and where it's coming from. My neighbors have a dog that sounds like a human goat. It doesn't bark; it screams. The sound it makes is the perfect blending of a goat's bleat and the yodelling of a drunk, pubescent boy having a tantrum. It's the most repulsive vocalization I've ever heard, which is fitting, since my neighbors are the most physically and mentally repulsive people who ever walked the earth.
The mother looks like an upright manatee and emits a gravelly bellow, like a harbor seal. She's got impeccable aquatic-mammal action going. The teenaged daughter weighs 350 pounds and has a perfectly spherical head. Her eyes are squeezed almost shut by adipose tissue. And the father makes a U-turn in my driveway every single night in his giant truck with the high beams on. Every night, it looks like a silent nuclear explosion is going off outside, as blinding white light pierces my blinds for five or six seconds.
Their screaming human-goat dog is new. The sound was so horrifying that I had to go out and identify both the source and location. Once I'd done so, it became marginally more bearable. It was the alien quality that upset me. I didn't know if a mummified prospector who'd died in the 1849 gold rush had gotten rehydrated and come up out of the ground to find something to eat. Or maybe someone had stumbled on a hidden stockpile of dioxin from the fifties, had half-melted himself, and was yelling for help. When I found that it was a malformed dog owned by a manatee-lady, a girl with an orbicular head, and a man too stupid to know one end of the street from the other, I was able to put up with the noise.
I understand why the people I once held in my arms have turned out the way they have. That makes their fate slightly less painful, and it makes it a little easier for me to let them go. What happened to them isn't a mystery. Though they haunt me, it's different than if they disappeared without a trace or spontaneously combusted. And they choose—for the most part—to be the way they are. I accept their choices, and I let go.
The good thing about letting go is that someday you can grab hold again. Letting go isn't forever.
What Eric and Tim and I talked about is that being your own person and staying true to what you know is right will automatically separate you from the majority. Plenty of people really don't like genuine individuals. An extremely large percentage of the population must pledge fealty to some group, whether it be a political party, a religion, an ethnic group, a club, a geographical region—it's endless. I completely see the need. We're social creatures. It's normal to belong to a group.
I just never have. It wasn't deliberate; a combination of choices and factors beyond my control made me what I am. And now that I have certain principles that I can't violate under any circumstances, and I comprehend pretty much every motivation and every dysfunction and I'm not afraid to talk about them, it means that the already-tiny collection of potential peers has shrunk down to a handful. I'm just too unsettling. That's okay. I don't mind. My plan is to write books. That's like traveling, going to parties, and building entire cities, even if it's only in my mind.
Most of my days are spent alone. Yet I'm never lonely. Though solitary, I feel very close to you, my brothers and sisters. We're all in this together. My weird circumstances have forced me into seclusion, but I'm with you in spirit. When I was a social creature, I was lonely all the time, except for the three perfect years I spent with Carmen.
Eric said he was sad that he could visit only for such a short time and only infrequently. I told him what I'll tell you: It doesn't matter. The bond is permanent. We don't have to be in constant contact. We do what we can.
My connection with humanity is what allows me to accept and let go more easily than I did in the past. The bond is permanent, and what's painful in the short run may not last forever. The people we have to let go may overcome that which made us let them go. It could happen in this lifetime or in the next. Or sometime far in the future.
Except when it comes to people who buy a human-goat dog and install it in their yard where it screams all day and night. The manatee, her globe-headed daughter, and her hydrogen bomb of a husband have shown me that I have limits. The only way I'd feel a bond with them is if you doused the four of us with a bucket of super glue and squooshed us together.
My late father called the manatee something that I'd love to share but can't. His mordant German wit allowed him to create a play on her name that was so simple yet so foul and hilarious that every time he mentioned her by that invention—seriously, as though it was her real appellation—I couldn't help cracking up.
See, I let Dad go long before he died, but he left me with some good memories. He also gave me a great brother in Eric, who got to witness the Perseid Meteor Shower over Greenland as he flew back to the Netherlands. He said the night sky was unnaturally clear, and it was gorgeous.
So many people in my life have been meteors. They disappeared in what seemed like a flash.
But what makes meteor showers precious is their beauty and transience. That's why they're to be cherished. We're lucky we get to experience them.