Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This was Bill Richie's gift of words....

I was just going to wing it.

At a certain point, I decided I was just writing down stuff that would be impossible to read, so I thought: screw it, I won't write anything down. But then I imagined Treice's reaction.

"You haven't got anything written down? BILL...!"

So, I rewrote. But I made it simpler than it was. So, if it's too simple...well, you know who to blame.

The other day when I went to see Treice, I told her something I'd been thinking about -- a very me thing to say to her, a very her thing to hear from me...and she kind of nodded at it, which was nice. What I wanted to tell her was that I didn't care how her appearance had changed...but it was for a special reason, that I didn't care. It wasn't just that I didn't, if you see what I mean; it was because I had an excellent reason not to, that made caring about that kind of silly. Because I think everyone has a kind of secret face, that's their real face...and the real face never changes anyway. Time may add wrinkles or grey hair, take away teeth or add mottling, to the public face -- but the real face is left completely untouched by such things, and incorruptible.

Here's how we come to see the secret face: in little distances, just a couple of inches, practically nose-to-nose. You can't even get a good look at it while you're standing up, ordinarily: you have to be lying down to really see it, because you have to let it fly up and fill the whole sky, round and unforgettable as the moon. Every parent's seen it, and every child...every husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, most relatives, even some friends. More than anything else, I think, it's like entering a little room only big enough for two at a time...a room outside the whole rest of the ordinary day-to-day universe, where time can't fit because the door is too low for clocks to go under it, and the only music is the breath of those who love one another, and the lamp is always burning...and the door is never locked.

And we're the luckiest people in the world, who've been so privileged as to enter the little room, and I think we know it -- we know our loved one gives us something inside those short precincts of sight that can never be taken away from us, no matter what may happen later. Something of them that is unsummarizable, that can't be boiled-down, eroded, or rusted away. In ordinary life, people's faces are like sketches. Like thumbnails: we recognize them fast, and then go on about our business with them. But the secret face is different -- recognizing IT goes on endlessly, and our eyes don't even get tired.

But of course...in the normal course of events, then, I would have to admit that I never really saw Treice's secret face. Maybe for a minute or two, here and there...but probably not long enough at any given time to have it rise up in front of me like the constellations in the night sky.

In the normal course of events, that is. But that's where I'm luckier than I've got any right to be -- where we're all luckier than we've got any right to be.

Because I don't think she had any other face but that one.

In fact I think she often found this somewhat frustrating -- she just couldn't get the hang of keeping that secret face secret! And I used to get a certain amount of amusement from this, I have to confess -- at the way she just couldn't mask herself the way many of us can, and couldn't figure out what it was we all knew, that she didn't...but I'm grateful beyond words for that now, because it's given me something that even disease and death can't remove: a view of the little room, where the lamp is always lit, and the door is never locked.

Anyway it will never be locked by me. "Beyond words"...that about says it. I told Treice, I don't think I could ever have had an end-of-life conversation with her. Because I wouldn't have known where to begin. I wouldn't even have known how to choose the first word. I couldn't summarize her if I tried; she just fills the sky, for me.

For all of us, I think.

And I don't think a person can leave a more gracious legacy.


Anonymous said...


bill said...

I'm glad you liked it, Anonymous.