Teach Us to Number Our Days

Tonight my son and I stepped out into the garden and lit the little wax pallet at the bottom of a large Chinese paper lantern. As the flame took hold, the lantern filled with air and as the air grew warmer, the lantern was lighter in our hands and finally we released the rim and watched the lantern lift away into the night sky. We watched it skim the trees, over the rooftops (rendering silent the neighbors chatting on their front porch) sailing over the park and across the river.

As it slipped up out of my son’s graceful hands aloft into night, there was a simple magic there, a beauty that took my breath away. In that instant I whispered Goodbye and it was not just goodbye to the lantern off to journeys we cannot see, but goodbye to our friend Stacey Boles Peretz Giordano who left us clay-footed mortals last night on her own adventure. She’d fought leukemia tooth and nail for 18 months. It seems so wrong that the cancer should win.

I’ve known Stacey since our kids were little and in the same rural school in Montana. Circumstances were such that we never had much time to visit, but I always liked her tremendously. She had gumption, and she was funny, and charming. Life took her to Florida, just as it brought us to Ohio. Julian and I saw Stacey and her beautiful daughters in Florida, hard to believe that was six years ago. We always thought there would be another time.

Stacey chronicled her fight to live on Facebook, and I watched with amazement as she bravely soldiered on through bone marrow transplant, and just recently a stem cell transplant, and the whisper of the magic spell “remission.”  Something went awry. I guess it doesn’t matter what the something was, it all culminated in the same godawful end: Stacey’s gone.

And then, as if the universe wanted to underscore a point with me, across my desk this morning comes the news of the death of children’s artist and author, Maurice Sendak. This wouldn’t elicit much from most, but I spent years as a children’s book buyer at a prominent children’smuseum, and I have a lifetime collection of Sendak books of my own, dating from 1966. I met him at a Harvard function in the 1980s, and shyly presented my well-loved and somewhat worn copy of Higglety Pigglety Pop, inscribed to me by my father for Valentine’s Day 1967.  He asked “Are you Larkin?” I said I was and he commented that I’d had the book a long time. I said that it was a lifelong favorite, and he inscribed it to me again, with a little sketch of Jennie, the star of the book. He was 83, and his death was not unexpected, and it does not rattle me in the way Stacey’s loss does, but still, damn.

I’ve been writing this blog now for eight weeks and a day. In that time I’ve written elegies for my professor Harry Crews, my son’s beloved Latin teacher, Patricia Flinn, our good friend Tom Crosley and now Stacey. (And Mr. Sendak.) It’s too many. I know that I’m getting to that age where we begin to bury our friends’ parents, our teachers, our own parents, our spouses, and our friends. But really, it’s too much death. Enough death, I don’t want to deal with anymore death.

At dinner tonight the Chinese Fortune said “Your luck changes today.” It didn’t say which way it was changing, but we can hope for the better. Kiss those that you love, remember to treasure your friends, make each day the best day it can be and  so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

RIP Stacey Boles Peretz Giordano, you will be so missed, oh laughing girl.

Today’s number is 58. Steps walked 2234, still down with a wretched cold.  Breakfast was yogurt with granola and a banana. Lunch was hardboiled egg, can of San Pellegrino Limonatta and half a cup of raspberries, and half a cup of lemon sorbet. Two cups of black tea, cup of hot and sour soup, one Chinese meatball, half a cup of Chinese cabbage, one and a half moo shoo pancakes and a fortune cookie.


3 thoughts on “Teach Us to Number Our Days

  1. I just bought 4 Chinese lanterns. I showed them to my son Rob. I saw that look of “why are you showing me this” which changed to “cool” when I explained what they were. I asked him if we could use them to celebrate his graduation. I still don’t know why I bought 4 but we will figure it out. I am very sad tonight that my friend Tim lost his battle to brain cancer this weekend. I am taking my Mom to St. Helen’s tomorrow for the memorial mass. He died in Boston and donated his body to research for the disease he was fighting, a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor. I think I am going to go find some chocolate.

  2. Oh Tracy, I’m so sorry. Perhaps you should send up a lantern for Tim. They say this is the natural order of things. My response is that is not fit for print. I want us all to go on living long and wonderful lives.

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