I have now lived ten days longer than my father.
As we flew to Hawaii on Friday, April 12, I was thoughtful of another date: July 23, 1988, was Jimmy Joe Berryman’s 19,707th day, and his last.
April 12, 2013 was Jeffrey William Berryman’s 19,707th day. All that day, I reflected on the fact that my life’s length equaled that of Dad’s, who died just shy of his fifty-fourth birthday back when I was twenty-nine. Acute leukemia killed him one month and three days before Amy was born.
This is the question I kept asking myself out over the Pacific Ocean: what should I make of this period of time neither my father nor his father got?
Anjie and I have been talking about the future a lot lately. Our lives have changed in recent years. Though we remain strongly connected to our children, they’ve each gone off and begun the process of doing just what we wanted them to do, which was to build solid, independent lives built on foundations of faith, dreams, perseverance, and service. “The kids are gone and the pets are dead”—we once heard that was the true definition of freedom—and as thankful as we are for our lives thus far, we have grown a bit restless, agreeing together that we need to make new patterns of meaning, behavior, rhythm, and service.
So we’re in the process of praying, thinking, talking, and dreaming just like we did years ago, and though we’re both in the middle of jobs and projects well in motion, we’re trying again to discern the larger picture, and get a sense of which way the wind might be blowing for us over the next 15-20 years, assuming (knowing that it might not be true) that God’s going to grant us this next period of time. We often say—with a twinkle in our eyes—our lives are just barely half over. True or not, that’s the way we’re approaching the conversation.
For those of you who know me, you’ve noticed by now that I haven’t said much lately, via blogs, Facebook and Twitter posts, or in performance. Frankly, there is much to talk about with me, and I hardly know where to begin. The writing’s been as warful as implied in Pressfield’s The War of Art, and there are days when it’s pretty damn discouraging. Regrets related to some professional decisions early in my career have been having a field day in the back of my mind as I struggle to make my script work, and the mistakes I’ve made relationally with many old friends creep into play as well. But back of all that is a growing and changing understanding of life and—most importantly—faith.
In the coming days, I’m going to be blogging a bit more. (“Yeah, we’ve heard that before.”) How much more is hard to say. I think about the following things a lot: the meaning and practice of love; racism; playwriting; church; poverty and wealth; theatre; the role of criticism in the theatre; the making of meaning; water (those who have it and those who don’t); injustice’s root causes and the various battles groups engage in to define it and fight it; Christ; art; Islam (I am ¼ of the way through the Quran); the stories we tell ourselves; LGBT issues; the nature and essence of religious experience; brain science; imagination; creation; current events (Boston, the new pope, the theatre I see, pop culture); the list goes on. Plainly, focus is a problem.
The difficulty of knowing lies at the heart of my journey. I’ve blogged about that before, and so it’s old news. But for whatever reason, complexity will not yield in my thinking, and I am reluctant to launch into the sound-byte infested waters, but reluctance can one day give way to cowardice, and with so much at stake in this life of ours, silence does not serve.
It would not be false to say that I come with uneasy voice and a quivering membrane of a spirit as I begin to talk again about my questions and the particular shape of my changing understanding.
I hope you decide to follow along.
And now, back to the question: what should I make of this period of time neither my father nor his father got?