“Sorry for your loss.”
“It’s your loss!”
“Your loss is our gain.”
“Your team suffered another loss?”
“Our company took a tough loss.”
“The storm caused a loss of power.”
“Have you considered weight loss?”
I recently flew out to Idaho to sort the remains of my mother’s life. She passed away last fall and having quickly sold her house we’d temporarily moved many of her belongings to a local storage unit. Weary of the emotional journey down memory lane, I called a long lost friend suggesting we meet for lunch. We had grown up together in the Podunk town of Nampa and always enjoy reminiscing with quite a few laughs. Both of us have travelled the world, yet when we find each other, it is usually back in our dismal little hometown.
A writer himself, we discussed a recent article we’d read stating that if James Joyce were alive today, he’d be working for Google. The implication was that the smarter people in the world today no longer choose writing as a profession, rather technology, as books are dying.
My friend and I strongly disagreed with this ridiculous assumption. Joyce was obviously a lover of words, not data. And there is no stopping a born writer. Believe me, there have been times I have tried myself. Books will live on forever.
Our discussion then took a low brow turn and we began musing about English and how absurdly difficult it must be as a second language. “English as a first language”, or “ EFL” as my silly son called his high school English class, is confusing enough for many native speakers.
Perhaps because my friend and I recently lost our parents and are orphans, the subject of loss came up and how some confuse the use of this word with that of similar yet entirely different words such as lost, lose and loose. Plus I had lost my jewelry pouch while travelling and was at a loss as to whether I could ever find my not-so-precious jewels. Maybe the zipper was loose on my carry-on and it fell out in the overhead compartment. Reminding myself that these “gems” were only things, I tried to forget all the sentiments attached to them.
I digress. And I often thank the nuns at St. Paul’s School in Nampa for drilling grammar into my young brain for eight years. If we were not diagramming sentences we were suffering through grammar/spelling bees or conjugating verbs aloud while Sister Mary Scary rapped our knuckles should we lose our place or make a mistake. Thus, I know my grammar and punctuation. And my penmanship isn’t bad either. Some days I thought I might lose my mind should I have to stand another minute in front of the class, swirling cursive letters across the blackboard with dusty white chalk.
Once my old pal and I had discussed the proper use of these sometimes confusing yet obviously useful “L” words, we admitted to each other that we really are losers— lost souls. Vowing not to lose touch, he loosened his bicycle lock from the railing and headed back to his office, lost amidst the gnarling traffic that today chokes our pitiful town.
The following morning ,crouched in the cold, musty storage unit, I rummaged through fading photographs, dusty dishes, sagging chairs, tarnished silver plate, tattered books, and cozy afghans. Wrapped in one of those blankets my mother lovingly knit I found the crucifix that hung inside, over our front door my entire childhood, blessed by Pope John XXIII. I stared at the cross for a minute, carefully wrapped it back in the Irish knit afghan, and went outside for a long walk.
Rest assured, I know the meaning of loss.