Tom

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive,
but in finding something to live for.”
from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

In my thirties — when I went through my Dostoevsky period — that quotation would have taken my breath. I would have questioned what I was doing, spun into a life-examining journal writing frenzy about it. I think, in fact, I did that, over that very quotation.

But now, my children (ha ha) I’m not the same person. I KNOW what I lived for and it’s the same thing I’m living for now.

Long ago, back in Denver, during another presidential election, I worked hard for an independent candidate. I wrote speeches, TV ads, organized events. It was fun and I believed in him. He didn’t win, but his campaign garnered 10% of the vote in Colorado. One of the events I planned was an expensive fund-raising dinner at an elegant Indian restaurant called, appropriately, The Bombay. Entertainment for that evening was a popular Denver jazz band featuring a fantastic saxophone player named Tom. It was an elegant and successful evening.

Back then I was well on my way to being a ‘mover and a shaker’ in Denver, and I knew Tom pretty well.

Time passed — two and a half years. I went to China, and I came back. Four months after the return, I was emotionally evacuated. I was homesick for China. I had also realized that my husband didn’t like me. I’d come back to the states because he was sick and I shouldn’t have. My beautiful dream was over and I was left with a bad marriage.

I walked down to the King Soopers nearest our Capitol Hill Apartment to buy stuff for supper. It had begun to snow. Outside the store a man in a wheelchair was playing the saxophone for tips. I got closer and saw it was Tom. I sat down on a bench to talk to him.

“Where you been, lady?” he asked.

“China. I went to China to teach.”

“China?”

“Yeah.” How did I ask the question without hurting Tom? Finally, “What happened?”

“Oh, babe, you won’t believe it. I got the flu.”

“The flu??”

Tom chuckled at the amazement in my voice. “I know. It don’t make sense. It attacked my spine. I was flat on my back, for six months, paralyzed. They said I’d never walk or play the saxophone again, but, a man gotta’ eat and a man’s gotta’ play, right?”

My heart was in my throat.

“I could live without walking, but, honey, I wasn’t living without my sax.” He gently pressed the keys and levers on the shining instrument. I knew how he felt about it. It was both his livelihood and his life.

Just then a young woman I’d worked with some years before approached the door. “Martha? My god! It’s been forever!!! What are you doing these days?”

Tom looked at me and saw I was about to cry. I was but at this moment I don’t know exactly why. There were plenty of reasons in that cold early-winter Denver moment.

Tom answered. “She’s livin’. She’s jus’ livin’. That’s all any of us do and if you think otherwise, you’re wrong.”

After that, I knew the goal of my life was to live. To live for life itself. It’s not so easy, either.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/03/15/rdp-sunday-something/

19 thoughts on “Tom

  1. Living life for itself. How many people miss this option?

    There is no meaning handed down to us from on high… so we’ve got to figure one out for ourselves. Very existentialist.

    I think you will like this song.

  2. A really moving story. Starting with the quote. Your ending: “To live for life itself…” -I agree it is NOT so easy. We are all figuring that out.

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