My mother reads two things on Sunday mornings: “Modern Love” and the Obituary page. “Modern Love” is a fantastic weekly column that I love to spend hours poring over during boring lectures. Someday, I would love to write a piece for “Modern Love.” It’s a personal column that focuses on all elements of love– love lost, love found, love lost-and-found again, with all the different people and things in one’s life. Love is so far-reaching that it can’t solely be restricted to the love between humans, or at the very least, a romantic partner. “Modern Love” explores friendships and the struggles of parenthood, the love between a girl and her cat, that sort of thing. It can be uplifting, reflective, as well as deeply depressing and thoughtful.
I do not share my mother’s affinity for the Obituary page. She can sit at the kitchen table for hours and be sucked in by stories of recently deceased individuals. She reads, tears up, and then begins a day of fruitful research. It’s as if, suddenly, these deaths are her deaths. These people, her people. She connects ages, birth dates, to those of her parents– her father, who died in his eighties, and her mother, who died in her fifties. Reading about Oliver Sacks, my mother has become bereft. Maybe Mr. Sacks looks like my mother’s father, or her mother would have been his age, but I can’t help but think there’s some connection to the deaths she reads about, feels for, and becomes consumed by, and the deaths she has experienced.
Oliver Sacks was a fascinating, accomplished man, but up until today, I don’t think my mother was particularly struck by him. He didn’t spend hours, minutes or even seconds occupying her mind. Now that he’s dead though, my mother grieves him. I wonder why that is, and why she can be so taken by both “Modern Love” and the Obituary section. I think she has reasons that I don’t understand, and maybe won’t understand, until I lose someone close to me. Someone I love. And maybe even then, I won’t be able to put my finger quite on why she was ever so ignited by these stories.