Tuesday nights my grandson Ben sleeps over. He is 10, a rising fifth grader (as they say) in the Chicago Public Schools, and therefore capable of profound observations. Last night as we were getting ready for bed he told me that sleep is the time when you “bypass time,” when an hour goes by like a minute, both statements which pretty much knocked me out.
Good kid, adorably cute, STEM nerd, though he likes social studies too, he told me.
“Pops, what should I be when I grow up,” he asked amidst this conversational romp. I told him a physicist. An Einstein in the family would be nice. I asked him what he wanted to be, and he said “animator,” by which he meant painter of Japanese anime drawings. He loves all things Japanese, especially sushi. But I thought he said “innovator.”
“Yeah, that would be good too,” he agreed. Inventors and scientists are like guiding spirits, lighting our way into the future, we said, or words to that effect.
After he went to sleep, I started in on the Internet and happened on this quote, from the Hungarian Jewish poet Hannah Senesh: “There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.”
Considering her great courage as a Nazi resistance fighter, she herself was one of those lights.
Ben’s dog Juney also sleeps with us Tuesday nights. He’s a mix of about eight breeds, predominantly schnauzer from the look of him, with a black body and face (also adorable) and white chin, chest and paws as if someone had dunked them in paint.
I take off his collar before we go to bed so when he stretches and flaps his ears, as he does every hour or two, the rattle of his dog tags won’t wake us up.
Except I’m up anyway. Something to do with contemplating the amazing, undeserved richness of my life and the BBQ sauce on the dinner salmon, a little too rich for me.
Juney likes to snuggle next to me under the blanket, and I let him so I can stroke his hair (not fur: he’s hypoallergenic) while awaiting the time that bypasses time. Only it still doesn’t come. Yesterday I talked with my best friend, who reported that yet another of our high school classmates is battling cancer.
I stroke Juney for courage and think of Steve Jobs’ observation, which during my Internet wanderings I had also stumbled on: “…death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new … Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Consoling and true, especially the last part. Don’t waste life, live every moment deeply and with great love.
“I love you,” I whisper to the sleeping boys, and curl up finally to find some sleep myself.