A Man of Words

I’m sitting down to write this less than an hour-and-a-half before a funeral begins. The man being honored, remembered, mourned, is a dear friend of my husband’s family, one of those friends that’s like family. He was an English professor at the university where my father-in-law taught chemistry. He wrote plays. He created puzzles and games.

So many games! They were published in Games magazine, but what I loved was when we’d stop by and he’d excitedly run out of the room and run back in and hand us copies of his latest creations for us to try. 

The games and puzzles were fun, but what took them to another level was the enthusiasm with which he shared them. He loved seeing the “Aha moments” when we got the wordplay or the twist. It was that intellectual connection, that meeting-of-the-minds in an unexpected, unconventional way. He remembered the unusual, the quirky – he would always bring up a line my eldest child had uttered as a very young child, seemingly randomly, about a certain professional sports team not being his favorite. I’ve forgotten the specific line, but this man remembered it verbatim, decades later, because of his fascination with words and with thought processes, and he related to people through those patterns and networks and logic.

Which is why Parkinson’s, and specifically his manifestation of progression of the disease, was so particularly cruel.

As the disease degraded his neural connections, it progressively severed his specific way of connecting with the world. 

His wife is someone who projects strength and models dealing with things as they are. She doesn’t sugar-coat, and she optimizes what she can. When he was no longer able to cover his end of conversations, she was still covering hers. He was never alone.

The fucked-uppedness of neurodegenerative disease juxtaposed with the magnificence of the good side of humanity. Such a twist. Such a puzzle.

Life is certainly not fair. Which is what my family-friend-in-law saw and appreciated so clearly. What you would think should happen, what you would think should follow, frequently doesn’t. There are bends and convolutions in the arc of existence that can leave you confused, begging for an answer. He appreciated the struggle of the search. His wife and family continue the game, even if not knowing the whys, figuring out the hows. 

Sending all who knew this man of so many words a wordless hug. May his memory ever be a source of laughter and connection.

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