Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Friday May 23

In these my darkest
days, to relieve my
monotony, the Kempel
boy from next door, sleeps
with me nightly in my

There can be no greater
devotion from a father than
that of my own whom I lost
He showed me the right
path of life, how to help fellow
humans and the mental
satisfaction we get out of it
He was the wisest of the men
in Israel,

Had he lived in Israels prime
he would have been an out-
standing figure


Matt's Notes

The pendulum swings the other way. Yesterday Papa questioned whether his father's capacity for caring and tenacity was really just a propensity for worry and endless struggle; he wondered, in a dark moment, whether his beloved father's legacy was a blessing or a curse. Today, as if to make up for this lapse, Papa casts his father in almost biblical terms, compares him to the wisest men of Israel and extols his superhuman devotion.

In the emotional crucible of mourning, people indulge themselves in all sorts of behavior because they are allowed to and cannot help themselves. This behavior, the face revealed when all defenses are down, tells a lot about about the mourner's true character, and, when someone has lost a parent like Papa just had, even more about the mourner's inheritance. So we ask: How will he pay tribute? What has he learned from the parent? Will he act selfish? Caring? Helpless? Furious? In Papa's case, the thread running through his mourning tribute is devotion to his father's belief in altruism, the power and resiliency people get from helping "other humans." He does not waver on this principle, and it keeps him steady, as it would for the rest of his life, even though it did not necessarily prevent him from struggling with bouts of sadness.

Speaking of sadness, I think Papa's description of how the "Kempel boy from next door" slept in his room during this period may be one of the most difficult, deeply sad moments in Papa's diary thus far. Papa has demonstrated on many occasions his tendency to get deeply depressed and feel hopelessly lonely when alone in his rooms. I think this depressing loneliness was rooted, to a great extent, in his chronic, incurable homesickness, and it must have become nearly unbearable in the wake of his father's death. And while I'm sure the Kempel boy was happy to stay in Papa's apartment (his parents must have offered since the boy probably shared a bed with half his family under normal circumstances) the thought of Papa resorting to a child's company for want of any other solace is so melancholy it practically defies description.