we carry little pieces of people
and we don’t mean to do it
but it happens and
I say goodnight like an old friend
I laugh like a stranger I passed on the street
I love like the one that hurt me the most
and I don’t have anything left of me
because everyone took too much
I updated my will today. I don’t have many assets but I *do* have Bean, and in the event of my untimely demise he’ll need guardians. Circumstances have changed so I needed to update the document to reflect the current reality of my family.
I also left him the intellectual property rights to everything I’ve ever written. Maybe I’ll never get around to turning my hundreds of pages of notes into a “real” book. Maybe Bean will want to. At the very least, he’ll have all the raw materials needed to write an epic House of Glass style memoir.
I don’t actually expect him to do anything with my words. If he chooses to write a book, he won’t need my help. But that doesn’t mean I won’t do whatever’s necessary to preserve his rights.
Bill Gates’s favorite author, who has published more than 30 books, attests to the power of work ethic, echoing E. B. White’s contention that “a writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper,” Chuck Close’s assertion that "inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work." Tchaikovsky and Jack White would agree.
Or, as Isabel Allende aptly put it, "Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too."
Michael Jackson is Bean’s John Lennon. Lennon died when I was about three. Jackson died when Bean was about three. Both of us heard the music before we found out what had happened to the man. Bean and I. My dad and me.
I was probably five when my dad told me about the Dakota and Mark David Chapman. He didn’t tell me a lot, but it was the first time I heard a story like that. About a untimely death in which fame didn’t matter.
Obviously there are many differences between Michael Jackson and John Lennon. John Lennon may have turned me into a writer. Michael Jackson is turning Bean into a dancer. (Really.) I have only in the past few years found out the worst things about John Lennon, the person. Bean doesn’t know anything about Michael’s life. What he knows is Youtube. There is a lot on Youtube. He can watch any video he wants whenever he wants. I said something about not knowing as much about anything he did after Smooth Criminal (Bean’s favorite), and that confused him, because he can see any Michael he wants at any time.
We’ve already had conversations about plastic surgery, because you have to. He’s seen The Jackson 5 and also the documentary they were filming about the concerts that never happened in London, and there were all the questions you’d expect Bean to ask about that. He asked me why Michael died. I said I wasn’t sure exactly but it seemed he had taken too much medicine. He asked me why I didn’t ever take him to a Michael Jackson concert. I explained he was three. And there hadn’t been any concerts in a long time. Mommy had never been to one either.
I explained that when Smooth Criminal debuted on MTV, Mommy and Uncle Bob were older than he is now but not much, and we sat there for hours so we could watch it twice. I explained what an album is, and how there’s plenty of his later music I don’t really know at all.
Albums? Waiting around to watch videos? With no rewind? No Youtube? Sounds awful, Mommy.
Actually, no. It was pretty awesome.
Mindfulness and gratitude are much like herbal medicine in that they’re really constructive forces to have in your life, except it can be hard to accept that because some of the jargon associated with the concepts sound to the uninitiated ear like new age fruitcakery.
So if I were going to talk about gratitude, I’d start by saying that it sounds silly but we should do it anyway. As a daily practice, it can help retrain your brain to see the brighter side of life. That’s backed up by science, so it’s true even if you don’t believe it.
Empathy. It works.
The principal of Bean’s elementary school was a classmate of Bill Cosby’s. They have, apparently, kept in touch, because on the first day of school last year, Bill Cosby was there and shook the hand of all the new students. This included Bean.
I never would have known if my brother hadn’t overheard a woman in his aerobics class talking about it.
Naturally I had to investigate. “Your uncle said you met Billy Cosby.”
Me: “The man who shook your hand on the first day of school.”
Him: “Oh yeah!”
Me: “Oh yeah? Did you talk to him?”
Me: “BE-EAN. What did you say to him? What did he say to you? You shook his hand? Was he wearing a sweater?”
Him: “He said that it’s not his fault if I’m late to school.”
I can only assume this is the punchline to the funniest joke I will never hear. The conversation continued with my asking a few more questions. Bean finally noticed I was KIND OF EXCITED and said,
"Oh, you know him too?" So I told him about the Cosby Show, and also the dentist routine from that HBO (?) special.
It wasn’t until the end of the year, when the yearbooks came home, that I saw a photo of the two of them together. There are many other kids in the photo, but my Bean is front and center, less than three feet away from Bill Cosby. His little hummingbird face and body are completely at rest, entranced; listening.