I just finished reading Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter. It was originally published back in ‘86 but as I am nearly always disappointed after reading a current bestseller I tend to avoid them. My expectations far exceed whatever the book offers and I end up seriously doubting the veracity of public opinion. (Similar to how I felt when Stephen Harper got re-elected in 2010). What I usually do is wait until a dog-eared copy of some well-loved novel falls off the library shelf and into my hands—then I know I have a good one. Its a time worn practice and hasn't failed me yet.
Such was, well, almost the case with The Sportswriter. The sequel, Independence Day, for which Ford won the Pulitzer Prize, materialized first. But order is necessary in these things and Frank Bascombe, the hero of both stories, needed, at least for me, to be introduced in the way in which he was created.
The Sportswriter is Frank’s journey through the mourning of his son. Although the main theme is, at times, but a subtle context, Frank’s grief is only one of the many heartaches we come to witness through the course of three days. And, in the reading of these many sorrows and unique responses to loss, we cannot help but bump up against some aspect of ourselves. More poignant is seeing how action (and reaction) to loss are reflected onto the world; how disillusionment and, its opposite, hope, weave itself into the tapestry of our being, forever changing us, our loved ones, and the strangers we encounter.
And that change, however we manifest it, is rich in texture and colour. It has meaning with a depth that far exceeds that which we ourselves can plunge. It invites our touch, to squeeze it in our hands and try to mold it into a shape that pleases us, only to resist our furtive attempts. Then we try to toss it away while yearning for it to come back. Change wants our commitment with such dreaded intimacy that it threatens to overwhelm, even crush us under its unrelenting pressure. IIt is real and it is tangible. It is the vessel in which the mystery of life unfolds.
I think about the trust that change demands of us. I feel it in my own shifts and in the transformation of others who have also been touched by death and sorrow. Each journey is unique, precious and so excruciatingly private. I think about my family and how each of us still travels this journey of loss from the death of my mother some 35 years ago. I think how my inner judgment of their way of travelling may have somehow alienated them … as I, myself, have felt alienated from their perceived judgment of me.
The mystery of life—so full, so rich; so abundant in grace—will, without a doubt, patiently endure my judgments. But that is just a setup for detachment and a denouncement of joy and our interdependence. Life will unfold as it will but with an open and trusting heart the mystery of it will unfold with magic.
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