Sunday, January 13, 2008

Heavy Boots

I am currently planning to teach my English A course (that's my first-year gymnasium students here in Sweden for those non-Swedes reading) a novel called Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by the contemporary American author Jonathan Safran Foer. It was a prescient choice. (I selected it a few months back.) It tells the story with an eleven-year-old NYC boy named Oskar Schell who is grieving the death of his father who died in the September 11th attacks. I initially came to read the book a few years ago because I thought it showed a large heart, for reasons greater than the obvious. You see, I'm pretty sure Safran Foer is Jewish, but he clearly picked a German, atheist boy as his main character whose Grandfather was himself ruined by the bombing of Americans in Dresden, Germany. This seemed like a conscious choice and to me represented some sort of forgiveness, but maybe also something ultimately warmer than that, some form of healing, too. Since returning to read the novel I find it especially involving at times because I now feel the same "heavy boots" that Oskar bemoans as he starts to feel his heart weighted down when missing his dad. Since my mom died two weeks ago today I can relate more than I wish. It seems the hole is left when the physical person is gone only manifests itself as hole inside of those who are left behind. As Oskar tries to fill that hole up inside himself, he follows clues to things that reveal aspects of his father or what he himself thought of as his father. (That is always a dizzying difference, though, isn't it?) No search ever leads us to what we think we want. Yet the process does help. Thanks to everybody who has helped me with this process. I'll keep reading along with my students and following Oskar through the streets of NYC once again, and no doubt that process will help, too.

Thanks again, everybody.

I miss you, mom.

RIP Susan Marie Eriksson
November 6th, 1942 - December 30th, 2007

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