November 23rd, 2019
“Once Khidr went to a king’s palace and made his way right up to the throne. Such was the strangeness of his appearance that none dared to stop him. The king, who was Ibrahim ben Adam, asked him what he was looking for.”
The visitor said, ‘I am looking for a sleeping place in this caravanserai (caravan stop).’
Ibrahim answered, ‘This is no caravanserai — this is my palace.’
The stranger said, ‘Whose was it before you?’
‘My father’s,’ said Ibrahim.
‘And before that?’
‘And this place where people come and go, staying and moving on, you call other than a caravanserai?’ ”
from “The Way of the Sufi” by Indries Shah
Karin is gone. She is down in Texas with Hans, Gabby, and little Weston. She’s been there for almost a week. Karin went to Bryan because Gabby needed to have some major surgery. Gabby had a cancerous tumor on her knee. They spent a long time cutting and splicing to remove the tumor, and then to replace the knee. The surgery went well, but now Gabby needs to heal up, and that is going to take a while. I don’t expect to see Karin back home until after Christmas. I am flying solo.
For me this is a big deal. Karin and I have our own interests, but we also do things as a team. I am going to miss going to daily Mass together with her, and then stopping for coffee at Mocha Lisa in Racine. We have our best conversations there. She drinks her hazelnut cappuccino and I drink my black coffee. We discuss anything and everything for an hour or two. Now we can’t do that, and it stings a bit.
Does it matter when people leave us?
We live in a transient world. People come and go, like at a caravan stop. Some leave us for a short time, and others leave us forever. Relationships are often difficult to establish, and they are even more difficult to maintain. We live in a time when the word “friend” means less than it did before. The word has been cheapened. A friend used to be somebody that you could trust with anything. Now a friend is somebody who likes you on Facebook.
Karin once made the comment to me, “Maybe we are still together after all these years, because we have been apart so much.”
That seems paradoxical, but it is probably true. It has been in the times when we were separated that we realized how much we depended on each other. Now, after thirty-five years of marriage, it is more obvious than it ever was before. We depend on each other for stability and support. As the years have slipped away, so have our feelings of independence. We are an “alte Ehepaar”, an old married couple.
I mentioned to Stefan that I was missing his mom. He suggested that I get a recording of her swearing loudly in German, and then play it whenever I feel lonely. That’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure it would work.
I hang on to friends tenaciously. Perhaps I shouldn’t do that. It seems to be recipe for disappointment. Other people are better at moving on than I am. They are more casual in their relationships. They have many friends, or at least acquaintances. I prefer to have a few friends who are there for me, and for whom I am also there. I try to be loyal to people, and I expect them to be loyal in return. That may be foolish on my part. That’s how I play it.
I know from Zen practice that we eventually lose everybody, including ourselves. Attachments cause suffering, even attachments to people. What about love? If I love somebody, and they leave, do I suffer because I am attached to that person? Should I not love them? Does love also mean that I can let them go? Should I not grieve when a friend dies?
I am at an age when I say “goodbye” more often than I say “hello”. People are leaving me, and I will eventually leave them. Whether I like it or not, I am slowly cutting ties.
Time is short. I need to love people when they are still here.
I wait for Karin to come home.