Soldier, scholar, horseman, dad.
William Butler Yeats’ brilliant and haunting In Memory of Major Robert Gregory played in an endless loop in my mind last week. More exactly, I heard Ted Kennedy’s voice paraphrasing, in his eulogy for his nephew, the closing line of Yeats’ eleventh octet: “We dared to think that [he] would live to comb gray hair.”
Arthur C. Traub, Jr., at different times in his life a soldier, scholar, horseman, and daddy, lived to comb gray hair. And then, robust and strong, on the day after Christmas he lived no more.
I still don’t know why we were forbidden from going into my mother’s purse.
We were not a house of taboo places. Other than Christmas-present-hiding-season, no part of the house we grew up in wasn’t all of ours.
This book was murder on my bookmark.
My current shirt and mood
I have lost track of how many times I have declared my novel “finished.”
In my favorite picture of myself, you cannot see my face.
The first time I heard Bob Dylan’s song “Hurricane,” about the controversial murder conviction of black boxer Ruben Carter, I pulled my 1972 Chrysler New Yorker into a rest stop off the highway so that I could allow myself to be riveted. In my memory it is summer and I fumble for a pen not yet gummy and ruined by too many hot days in the car, and for a napkin in the hope I would be able to record the name and search for it at a record store.
Times were different then. Google did not facilitate such searches.
The story surfaces because it so closely tracks Emily Dickinson’s much-echoed remark to a friend named Higginson : “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” And because this weekend, Bob Dylan was to be in Sweden, months after the Nobel Prize banquet, where members of the academy were to meet up with him before a previously arranged stop on his current concert tour.
After the announcement that Dylan was being given the prize for 2016 that Faulkner got in 1949 and Camus was given in 1957, the boo birds came out in full voice. Writers from every part of the talent spectrum started responding in green ink, tweeting and posting on-line their disdain for the selection. Several took the easy cheap shot, asking haughtily if they could submit their fiction works for Emmy awards, or nonsense along those lines.
As so often happens in the world where social media values immediacy over all else, the boo birds – while seductively snarky – are mistaking ignorance for wisdom.
The first literature was sung.
Another kind of love song.
There was no singing today.
There should have been. One of the traditions that Carrie brought with her into our marriage is calling family members on their birthdays to sing the happy birthday song, sometimes in tune, sometimes in time, sometimes both.
Such a thing never would have occurred in the Traub house growing up. That is less a good thing or a bad thing than it is just a thing. But the Carters never missed the chance to call and sing, and that practice is now as deeply rooted in our house as brushing our teeth before bed.
Carol Wagner Traub 1942-2016
Slow Train Coming
I have, in a sense, been waiting for this since I was a 4-year-old little boy who didn’t really understand why mommy was going to the hospital and I was sleeping at Uncle Ronnie’s. After the mastectomy that granted her another 42 years, her sons and infant daughter were brought to see her at the hospital. Among my earliest memories is hugging her in her wheelchair there and crying as I said: “Mommy, don’t ever run away again.”
She never did.
Twenty years ago today I woke up with no idea my life was about to change. I showered and took the train to Boston with my dad, put in day’s work in the Senate and went home. On a whim I went out for a cup of coffee with friends.
My coffee was still warm when the-one-who-got-away walked in and sat with her friends at the other side of the room. At 26, I was old enough to know that life hurts sometimes and young enough to believe in fairy tales.
When I had calmed down enough to stand, I broke a three year silence with a simple “Hi Carrie.” We talked until just after 2 a.m. When I tried to drive away, I made it less than a block before I pulled into a business and started to cry. Not like a baby, but like a man. When I could breathe again, I looked up at the night sky and said “God, I don’t know what you are doing. But whatever it is: I’m in.”
So much has changed since that day. But I still believe in our fairy tale. And whatever the future holds, Carrie: I’m in. Happy anniversary love. And thank you for our date. The best part of all this is that we are just getting started.
(Crosspost delayed a few days by adulthood and life.)
It was posed as an innocent question, entirely without baggage: “Daddy, do you ever write in that journal?”
We were making the 15 minute drive to her summer camp, where she fills her days in singing, acting, film and music classes led by passionate, talented teachers. This camp session, one of her six classes is a writer’s workshop. I’ve not yet been let into the circle of knowing what they talk about there.
Innocent or not, the question gave me a little jolt. “Sometimes,” was the best answer I could muster. The journal was on the front seat, sidling up against the book I’m reading a very few pages at a time. In truth, it had been weeks since I’d written a line in the journal, and likely weeks before that. It has been years since journaling has been part of my writing or spiritual discipline. It may be ten years or more since I wrote three days in a row. But I carry it most every day.