Sunday, October 30, 2016

Lifey Death Dances Again

I'm in an Atlanta airport lounge, and the time is 6:30am, but my body is convinced it's only 3:30 am because I got on a plane in San Francisco a few hours ago. I'm here because of the thing that Eddie Campbell calls, in his book of the same name, The Dance of Lifey Death.

A month ago I became a grandfather. My son Michael and his wife Courtney had their first child, a small boy called Everett. I've been counting down the days until I could go and see him, but first had to survive a Florida hurricane (it was fine as things turned out: didn't even lose power) and then drive home across country and so on.

I spent time working as a rickshaw driver for a one-year-old with his own tiny rickshaw (found abandoned on the streets of Boston by Lee, Amanda's Cloud Club landlord, and painted up and repaired). And then I waved goodbye to Amanda and Ash as they went off for a short European tour.

Which reminds me: here is a beautiful, and genuinely sweet time-lapse video starring Ash (he plays the sleeping baby in the cradle) for the Jack and Amanda Palmer cover of "Wynken, Blynken and Nod". Amanda is in it, and so is Maddy and so are the Welcome to Night Vale crew and so many of our friends. (I was writing in Scotland the night when it was made. I am not in it.) Watch it on full screen, if you can, as so much is happening.

I went to Toronto to attend the American Gods TV series first season wrap party, because I wanted to thank the cast and crew for the amazing job they had done and the hard hard work it had involved. I went to Los Angeles, where I did something cool and secret (you'll know in a year), and was interviewed for the Electronic Press Kit for American Gods.  (It will be out in the spring. I'm really excited.)

And then, finally, I went to San Francisco to be a grandfather.

Everett is the sweetest baby. He looks like he was drawn by Crockett Johnson on a day that he was feeling particularly impish. He looks a little like Barnaby and a little like Mr O'Malley, Barnaby's fairy godfather. I spent a happy couple of days changing nappies and dandling him. Lots and lots of dandling.

I tried to explain what being a grandparent was like on Twitter. I said, "It is a very comfortable thing to wear. Like a brand-new favourite old coat." And it is. You don't need instructions, you just fit right in, and the love just grows and your heart grows with it, in the same sort of way it does when your children are born.

This is a photo I took of Michael and Everett. My son and his son. I am so proud of Courtney and Michael: such good parents. I feel like I must have done something very right, somewhere along the way.

I had planned to stay with them in San Francisco for four days, but as I was leaving LA I heard that my cousin Sidney had died.

Sidney was married to my cousin Helen. She's 98, he was 94. They were married 68 years. Sidney was funny, impish even, smart, and in all my dealings with him, unflappable. He was a building contractor, and when he retired he became a sculptor and he made wonderful sculptures, realistic and abstract, but always things you wanted to touch and run your fingers over. Over the last decade he's been getting slowly more and more deaf, and more distant, but when he would show you his art his eyes would light up and he'd seem to hear everything you said, and he'd be perfectly present.

Here's a photo of Sidney and Amanda in 2013: I took her to Sarasota to meet them, and we put on an impromptu ukulele concert (Amanda) and reading (me) for Helen and Sidney and several hundred people who had learned about it from Twitter.

Here's Sidney's obituary. The bit where it says that he was loved and admired by all who knew him? That's true. It's not just something said in an obituary.

So I'm in Atlanta on a layover on my way to Sidney's funeral. 

I'm going to be attending it for Sidney, because I loved him, and for the family, and for my late father, who was the first person on the British side of the family to meet the American side; and I'm thinking about Everett and Ash, and I'm watching the circle of life in action. Eddie Campbell got it right. The Dance of Lifey Death. It's not a bad thing. Somebody enters, somebody leaves, the dance continues and the love remains.

Speaking of love, I have not congratulated Eddie here for marrying the wonderful Audrey Niffenegger, nor congratulated Audrey for marrying the wonderful Eddie Campbell. I like it when my friends marry each other.

(And I just checked. The Dance of Lifey Death is in Eddie's huge book Alec: The Years Have Pants, a book I cannot praise too highly: You should get it. You can thank me later.)

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