A Word About My Late Silence

Several loyal orthosphereans have written me privily in recent days, to inquire politely after my health and well-being. This, due to my recent absence from this and every other online forum.

I write now therefore to assure any others who have been likewise worried that everything is fine with me personally, except in one enormously important respect: my wife and I have been for the last few months entirely, and indeed more than entirely, engaged in moving houses (and buying, and selling, too). Moving is irksome and distracting even for a college kid with nothing more than a backpack of clothes and a shelf or two of books. We however have been engaged in a move more massive by several orders of magnitude: downsizing after a career of raising kids in a large house with (we now realize) really ridiculously grand amounts of storage.

Getting rid of so many artifacts and relicts of a rich and adventuresome family life – so many of which, despite all outward junky appearances, turn out to have been shockingly precious in one way or another – and finding room in the new place for what remains (or, more often, failing thereat) has been difficult, stressful, indeed often an occasion of not inconsiderable grief.

It is a hard passage. It is hard to turn to jetsam what one had worked to make ever ready on deck, and then see it turn to hapless forlorn flotsam. It is hard to face the end of the childhood of one’s children – and thus of the most important, lovely, and meaningful portion of one’s own life and work – in the most concrete, tangible terms. It cannot but seem a sort of death – and, to us, a death of rather a murderous sort. I.e., outrageous, and unwelcome; a violation. That the murder is suicidal makes it no less painful. We have just intentionally destroyed the highly evolved order of a household, and so of a family, that was the careful, loving work of decades, and of a million thoughtful decisions. Howsoever needful, and indeed inevitable, it’s an ugly act.

The new place is OK, but it will never feel quite as much like home as the old. Indeed, we rather resent it, and that not a little; as if it were an unwelcome interloper. Fortunately, our kids, grandchildren, and pets all seem to like it very much. So, maybe we are being too curmudgeonly; and maybe we can take some comfort from that reflection.

But, we are not yet quite ready to take it. The wound is still too fresh, and raw. So, we are still in full resentment mode.

Anyway: it’s really that simple. I’ve had no bandwidth at all for public writing. I’ve barely kept up with the private sort, that I use to think more clearly. And what’s worst of all: I know where only one of my books is, and that’s the one I had in my satchel when this all suddenly started, so that it is now long finished. I can’t buy any new ones, either, because I won’t have room even for the old ones, when the time finally comes to begin unpacking them.

This, even after a most horrible bloodletting inflicted upon my library before we moved. A massacre; a holocaust.

All that said, we begin to see now the light at the end of the exhausting chaotic tunnel. I have five or six post topics lined up, and some worthy guest submissions I begin to feel ready to begin to edit. So, I’ll be back soon in the fray, and in as I hope full fell fettle.

Thanks, all, for your patience – both with my absence, and with this, my grumble.


14 thoughts on “A Word About My Late Silence

  1. Pingback: A Word About My Late Silence | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: A Word About My Late Silence | Reaction Times

  3. Ah – so that’s it.

    I can imagine how unpleasant that kind of activity must be – just the kind of thing I hate doing.

    I’ve been tempted more than once to rent a cheap lock-up storage somewhere to dump all the stuff I don’t want to look at very often, but don’t want to throw out, but can’t store…

    Perhaps all this is a foreshadowing of how it feels as death becomes imminent?

    • This is all for sure a foreshadow of death. Tom’s jettison of the books he was willing to admit he would never again open was another.

      But here’s an interesting thing. When I triaged my library – got rid of about 500 books, I guess – it was as Tom and JM relate a terrifically liberating experience. It was as if I were saying to those books, “I don’t owe you anything after all, when push comes to shove.” I no longer had to agree to a duty to read some author I already knew to be a fool, for instance. How wonderful it was to toss his books in the “reject” pile! I do not even mention the profound – albeit tiny – sense of righteous wrath I enjoyed as I consigned the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley, that eager slave of Moloch, to the flames. Or rather, to the recycling bin; same thing in the end, I suppose. God forbid that I should by passing her books along add to her followers by a single tittle.

      Getting rid of those tiresome duteous books was a liberation, and a purgation. As I rifled through the shelves, I felt a fierce glee. What’s left is the gold. Who needs the dross?

      Perhaps I shall never open and read some of that gold. No matter. It is gold. It is good simply to look up and see Patrick O’Brian ranged along the shelf, even if I never read him again. For, he is an old friend. I would no more write him off, simply because I might not ever converse with him again, than I would an old friend like you, That would be silly. We don’t get rid of people we value because we might never have use for them again. That would be as stupid as getting rid of all my clothes because I might not wear them again. Of course I might not! So what?

      For, above and under all, this: I might.

      I feel altogether after this harrowing purgation, when push comes at last to shove, much cleaner, lighter, nimbler and more ready for the death that I know will soon enough come. My children will have to sort through the remaining thousands of volumes, to be sure. But at least they shall do so in the knowledge that “this is something Dad thought was important.” And, so, under the pressure of a hunch that the old man might have been right.

  4. Dear Kristor: I knew from private correspondence the reason for your absence, but I nevertheless gratefully welcome you back. About the time that you began your hiatus, I posted at The Orthosphere about my project — and my wife’s — to rid our house of years of cumulus including every book which on inspection I judged I would never open again. The result, which I pursued ruthlessly, was the riddance of hundreds of volumes. I had thought in advance that, despite my determination to reduce clutter and crowding, I would experience extreme regret over many a discarded scroll. Nothing like that happened. On the contrary, I felt a type of freedom in having disencumbered myself of all but the essential volumes. JM Smith reported a parallel experience from his similar project, which he summed up by invoking the “nice row of spines” on the now-orderly bookshelf. I predict that this calm elation will eventually present itself to you.

    It is pleasant to remark the resumption of your presence. (Tom)

    • A renascence of some semblance of orderliness in our lives has at last begun to make itself apparent, thank Heaven. Whether or not the new place will allow me to array all the essential volumes in nice rows of spines is another question altogether, and quite painful.

  5. Welcome back, Kristor, I believe I am older than you, but owing to a late start have just this last week watched my oldest graduate from high school. There was, for me, more grief than joy, for as you say, life has a singular sweetness when the nest is full. And as Bruce notes above, there are unpleasant intimations of death, in my case amplified by a ferocious toothache.

    • Wait until your youngest leaves for college. I’d rather pull my own tooth, any day. The grief when we got back home to that good old house after setting him up in his dorm room was orders of magnitude again greater than that of leaving the house.

      I will say this, though; just one word: grandchildren. It’s just like what everyone has always said. A new lease on life. Plus you get to be so much more of a child with them than was possible with your own kids. Awesome fun.

  6. It gets worse as you get older and your parents put their stuff in your house. My gandfather was a hoarder and spent his time at flea markets buying stuff. Shoeboxes full of silverware (old steel not actual silver) from the Civil War and boxes of old ax heads sounds cool until you have to decide what to do with them.

    Good luck deciding what to keep. Getting rid of old books is the hardest for me.

  7. The grief you have so eloquently described is the ransom paid by joy to mortality, is it not? I can feel your grief, even though I never had those experiences. I have one child only, a daughter. She was brought up in an utterly dysfunctional household, and one without Faith. My wife left when my daughter was still in high school; a few years later I drove her from home over conflict with another woman. My daughter has not married, and I have no grandchildren. I have only in the last few months begun to establish fragile contact with her after a quarter of a century. I have grief without worldly consolation.

    I do not mean to diminish or demean your grief one iota. I hope you take some consolation from this, and I can only hope the disaster of my adult life might encourage someone on the threshold of adulthood to shun the blandishments of the culture; although that is not likely to apply to any young people visiting this forum, for the best of reasons.

    • One further observation. Whilst my grief is a warning light for the young, yours, and that of the others here of faithful family, is a beacon, precisely because its luminence is proportional to the joy you have experienced.

      • Tragedy has visited you; aye, and stayed a while; indeed, overstayed. Your story fills me with sorrow, and compassion.

        Tragedy has visited our family, too, albeit under a different guise. Our family is permanently and grievously wounded, compared to what she was, and might have been. So too, then, with the families of our heirs and descendants. I have not much discussed our tragedies, for they are too much with us still, daily.

        Of tragedy, I shall say only this: all lives somehow or other meet it. It is the test of humanity. Everything lies in how we meet it: either bitterly, or gracefully, indeed gratefully. In your words, I hear the tone of grace. That bodes well, in the end, for you and yours – if not in this life, then in the next.

        Godspeed, PBW. Go gently, but go strong. Godspeed.

  8. Sorry hear of everyone’s or anyone’s sorrows.

    As for material possessions, back in our graduate school days, when we moved fairly often, we used to say that three moves are as good as a fire.


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