Yesterday I reacted to a reading of The Obverse and The Reverse by Albert Camus by saying “[The] poor only have the sky and stars”; that, “their wealth are in dreams.”
Within hours I was told of my cousin, Michael’s untimely death. As I contemplate, again, the happenstance that befalls us – consciousness, breath, life, I see our undeniable life parallels, too obvious to deny; front and back trajectory.
At this moment I recognize again there is greater pain in life than poverty.
He and I grew up in poverty. Poverty is physical. Like hunger, palpable, though it can be solved. A simple dream be it food, shelter, security. These can ease poverty.
When there are no dreams, there is no ease to this life. One sees no cure. One is exposed to deep psychological bankruptcy greater than any material hardship. Deep existential pain, worse than hunger or physical want, a search for definition, a basis for hope.
As dreams disappear I sense live ends at some quickened metric to the detachment.
My cousin was a kind, gentle heart. He, as I, did not know paternal fathers. He was born and suffered of a dysfunction of his mother’s consequence. Addiction, turmoil, perhaps also not of her making, as likely as was my teen mother, however, their dreams were lost to some sad collision of truths.
Camus might inject that I was bestowed “une grâce sans prix” – a priceless grace when an incidental moment; that, moment of truth, my mother could not nurture another baby in a fatherless house with other fatherless siblings, who also deserved dreams.
And in giving me away to strangers, they the most honorable, I could have dreams and, by chance, she could dream again.
A gamble of faith or resignation to truth to resurrect hope. An acute difficult decision that likewise could end tragically but did not for the reverence to life of those strangers, who pledged to become my parents .
This was the grace not afforded Michael, though there had been lessons taught twice of his mother, when she birthed and struggled twice before him. For whatever reason – love, selfishness, the hollow promise of an unworthy man, who she never disclosed to her son, her pain was so unbearable, she chased each day with some sedation or illusion. She focused upon and pacified her pain, neglecting the dreams for her children.
Left on their own device, through 52 years Michael’s pain and anger was never absolved. His priceless grace was bestowed on a baby girl that, though when found not biologically his, he did not abandon. He gave as much heart and soul to embrace as was possible under the duress of a lifetime of torment.
Though he could not further dream, he gave that baby dreams and his brother, who fought through these terrible circumstances, will carry those dreams forward.
For this twisted corollary, on this Memorial Day, Michael’s uncle, my decorated father, Max and I are proud of him for his compassion, heart and honor battling fate. He is at peace at last.