December 27, 2017. Day 2 in my 75th year. This picture was posted on Facebook earlier this month by a childhood friend from my old neighborhood, Black Rock in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (My sister Kate tells me that our niece Meghan, who now lives in Black Rock also posted the picture. Somehow I missed her post. FB algorithms seem so arbitrary.) It is a picture of Fayerweather Light, a prominent feature in the geography of my childhood.
We moved to Black Rock in the Spring of 1951, just as I was finishing 2nd grade at Sacred Heart School. Our house was at the end of Ellsworth Street, next to the city park and at the end of Burr Creek inlet. From our backyard we set out in row boats, small boats powered by outboard motors, and a sailing pram that our next door neighbor Phil Broadhurst built for me when I finished 8th grade. Mostly we played inside Black Rock Harbor, but there were excursions off the point of St. Mary’s by the Sea and fishing trips out in Long Island Sound beyond Fayerweather Light. In boating as well as swimming, we were afraid of the tidal rush through the narrows of Ash Creek.
I never went by boat to Fayerweather Light in the winter to see a scene like this picture, but I look at that picture and feel like the boy playing pirates with his friends and landing our boats on this Treasure Island. More than 60 years ago, now.
As I approach the turn of another quarter century mark, I’m thinking about the passage of time, not with regret (though as the song says, there are a few), but with wonder. At what’s ahead, as much as what’s gone before.
During Laura’s illness her friend Sara Greenblatt sent us, among other lovely gifts, DVD sets of TV series she recommended. In the Fortunes of War, based on Olivia Manning’s Balkan and Levant Trilogies, Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh play a young English couple caught in Romania at the outbreak of World War II. Watching them distracted us from the turmoil of Laura’s first round of chemo and radiation treatment. (During Laura’s final infusion during the clinical trail at NCI, Branagh’s character Guy Pringle came back to me as a cautionary image of how not to be a good husband. In between, I had read Manning’s trilogies as a way of revisiting the evenings spent with Laura watching the TV series.)
In early 2009, during the period when it seemed that Avastin might be shrinking the tumor, Laura and I chuckled over Mapp and Lucia, the second series Sara sent us. The last DVD set, A Dance to the Music of Time, was based on a 12-volume set of novels by Anthony Powell. I could never tell whether she thought the TV series recreated the novels poorly, or whether she was distressed by comparing the healthy, young naked body in the first episode with the ravages of chemo and radiation on hers. In any case, Laura did not want to watch even the first episode all the way through. As much as I like the sentiment of the title, I’ve never been able to watch the series on my own. To do so would seem almost disloyal to Laura’s distress.
Be that as it may, the idea of “Dancing to the Music of Time” recalls a statement Laura paraphrased beautifully from Schopenhauer in one of her academic papers:
Music … is the melody to which the world is text. Language has only the most tenuous claim on the articulation of this text.
Just as I played on the sea as a boy, I want to dance with the music of time during this, my 75th year.