I once read that Japanese businessmen smile all the time, happy or sad. In fact the article said the sadder they are the more they smile and I don’t know if this is true or not but the idea of it struck me like a thunderbolt. I identified. I also happened to read the piece the very same morning I was walking through the sanctuary of my church before the service began. “Why are you always smiling?! “someone said to me and in not all that nice a way either.
I guess what he meant was “Nobody’s that happy” which is true enough, though teachers also smile no matter what, because they know that whatever pain or disappointment they’re dealing with those kids filing in have a right to see them at their best.
I write here every single day because that’s what I vowed to do when I started this blog . Some days I’m ridiculously happy and some days I’m pretty sad but even I can’t tell, reading back, how I felt on a given day. It’s such a blend in this life, the joy and the sorrow, isn’t it though?
My old neighborhood came together yesterday to remember the life of a man who was, in his way, a father to all of us kids. We came from Missouri and Florida and Vermont to be there, first for the visiting hours and then for the memorial service. For the better part of 24 hours we did our best, together with his three grown children once our closest pals and co-conspirators, to conjure up the past.
He was such a funny man this Charlie Wilson yet he was always helping people too. Being around him was more fun than watching monkeys on a trampoline, yet he cussed like a sailor, which made you laugh even more. His son Alex said during our reminiscences that they wanted to rename his boat The Goddamit Barbara, for how often he could be heard exclaiming those words around his relaxed and easy-going wife.
We laughed so much over the last few days, the three bereaved children included, even though they wake again this morning with both parents still gone from them; with both parents in that other land, the great and inimitable Charlie Wilson and his bride Barbara, who went on ahead last November.
And that’s how it is for us all We laugh and we mourn. We smile and we are sad. Maybe singer-songwriter John Prine said it best. Below his tragicomic vision of life, here performed by the luminous Norah Jones.