Sunday, June 4, 2017

Greifenklau's cat - a random thought draft

There's a threshold you cross at some point -- barely noticeable, perhaps, because if it happens, it generally means Crisis has saddled up and come down the mountain, and your attention is elsewhere. It's that point where you stop asking people older than you "Hat sie was gesagt?" It's the point where you are banishing youth from the high part of your day, and making time to visit Onkel Greifenklau, der alt und gelähmt ist. Not because it stokes your superego to give up some precious hours to the old and infirm -- your hours aren't all that precious yet and God knows you've pissed enough of them away in lesser causes. It is no longer the easy and, dare one say, smug charity of the green. It's because it pleases the old man to not be eating lunch alone. Because you have begun to see the shadows as much as the sunlight, and perhaps, if you're a woman the Marschallin's age -- or older -- you've seen how people, yourself included, begin to fade into the invisible and inaudible.

"Hat sie was gesagt?"

Because your solidarity now is with the people on the far side of that question.

And anyway, maybe Greifenklau has all the good jokes. Maybe, given half a chance, he sheds great stories like a tree sheds leaves in autumn. Maybe all the good craic, as the Irish musos say, is around the lunch table over at his place.

Or maybe he's been around the block enough times to know more or less exactly what Marie Therese is going through. Maybe she goes to him because she knows he'll say "Christ's sake, Resi, that kid is an idiot and he might just get you killed. Send the boy packing and find someone who understands the risks." And she'll know he's right. Maybe she knows the old man's had his own entanglements with young noblemen. Maybe she'll know he knows all about love and risk, because whenever she comes for lunch she's greeted by the valet, who gives her the weekly report -- as he's done for several years now -- and she can see he's eaten alive with worry.

Well and doesn't fan fiction exist for a reason? To let the real world out of the margins?

Hat sie was gesagt?

Probably the last thing I said to her, if you translate it broadly. The last thing I remember, the last thing, laughably, of consequence. She loved Rosenkavalier. At 53, she understood "Da geht er hin...", she'd been dealing with that presumption of entitlement all her life, and she understood the Lauf der Welt part, too. She understood you played the hand you were dealt, but that didn't mean you couldn't see things for what they were and call them by their real names...though perhaps not in all company. "Ich sag was wahr ist..."

Hat sie was gesagt?

I went to see Greifenklau today -- where I was during the Rosenkav liveblog that was happening today in another part of the neighborhood. Greifenklau isn't old -- mid-60's, which in my book now doesn't rate as old -- but he is gelähmt, having broken a hip a few weeks ago. Unlike the real "Greifenklau", who probably has a legion of servants to keep his house pristine, and a cadre of cooks to make sure he eats every day, our Greifenklau has a cat, and a microwave, and his house is the house of someone who lives alone amid bouts of depression and periods of disability. All these things are intertwined and we can't even write a valet into this story.

Hat sie was gesagt?

Yes, I said: People die when your back is turned.

Our Greifenklau is in the hospital. Doing really well, though. Well enough, in fact, that they might kick him out early. Just in time for his chemo to begin -- but then, they're an ortho place, not a cancer place, and their brief ends at the hip. So where he'll be this time next week is anyone's guess. No carriage with a coat of arms is coming to pick him up, it'll be a friend's Toyota, like as not, and they'll be taking time off from work to do him this favor. And his stately home will be as if the legion of servants, after years of overwork and underpay, had thrown an epic party in his absence, drunk all the Tokaj in the cellar, trashed the place, and bailed. Only it was illness that did that, all on its own, and it doesn't always bail, and it can be a tenacious squatter.

Hat sie was gesagt?

Yeah, I said pain doesn't give a shit about your notions of personal responsibility. Ich sag was wahr ist.

If you've read this far, you might be wondering about the cat. I have the cat, the cat is fine. We were just listening to Rosenkavalier, in fact, because if you know cats and you know Strauss, you know how much cats love Strauss -- even if Greifenklau prefers Andre Rieu and I am constantly exhorting him to listen to the real stuff. Even though I know he never will. It's a script by now, but it's the joke of it, the craic, that keeps us facing in the right direction.


  1. That line, when Marschallin tells O what she's going to do with her day, visit an ailing aunt etc, reminds him there are other people in the world that are not the two of them -- I always find so incredibly moving.

    All the strength to you, Third-Flooria.

    1. That's exactly it, yes, and the way she walks it back just a little. Such amazing detail in that work.

      thank you, DtO :)

  2. Stray...oh stray, this is gorgeous. Aching and gorgeous. Thank you for this. And sending you love.

  3. I'm not so far off the mid sixties so I can totally relate and you put it so beautifully. And I've just been listening to Strauss with my cat.

  4. Hey thanks for the nice comments, you guys, they mean a lot