my hungarian grandfather often used to repeat an old chinese expression, "if you are troubled, sweep. if you are happy, sweep. if you are tired, sweep. if you are lonely, sweep..." he was very handsome and funny and completely organized, tidy, and responsible. and he swept up a lot of messes. like after my parents divorce when he would come over every morning after we'd all left for school and work and he would clean the kitchen and our house and take our dog lucy for a nice long walk every single day. no one asked him too. it was all just part of his regular battle against chaos. except for an occasional scotch, he had no vices (except maybe retelling the same old jokes a few too many times). he swept his front porch and back steps every day. he always turned the lights off when he left a room. he never ate any fast food. he cleaned his car inside and out, even under the hood, every single day. a pinnacle of virtue really. he worked hard, he was generous, knew how to have fun, and lived a rich, full, happy life.
well, i've been a bit bereft lately. a dear old friend of mine passed away quite suddenly this month. he wasn't feeling well one day, and died not two weeks later of a very rare and extremely aggressive form of leukemia. david was a dear sweet person, pure goodness. and he had a brilliant wit. r and i knew him for 20 years, he danced at our wedding 16 years ago in napa, california. we hadn't seen him recently, he was busy taking care of his ailing father, so devoted to his family he was. we were busy raising our children, we always thought we would have plenty of time to see him in a few years when our schedules became less hectic. regretting that thinking very much now. you couldn't ask for a more understanding friend or more delightful dinner companion than david.
so anyway, we are taking my grandfather's advice and using this time to devote ourselves to the art of household maintenance. i am helping the kids organize their desks and pencils, colored and otherwise, pens, rulers, protractors and compasses, erasers, folders and binders. time to get ready for the new school year. and frankly, now that the pencil cups are organized the shelves are looking a bit off. they could benefit from a redo as well, and the closets of course. this could go on for quite some time. all this cleaning, prioritizing and restructuring around here feels most comforting. i find myself wanting to be more virtuous, funnier and more organized like my sweet grandfather. and wanting to be more warm and friendly, devoted and caring, like lovely david. the best things in life really are the wonderful people you meet and the wonderful things they teach you. it makes all the difference.