WESTMINSTER BRIDGE, 1906, oil on canvas
Several weeks ago a sober friend, Alan, and I went to visit another (elderly, sober) friend in the convalescent home. I drove.
I didn't know Alan well. I knew he worked as a janitor: the night shift at
“I actually don’t sleep that well,” he replied. “Ever since my son was a kid…they used to talk about crib death all the time. And I was so afraid the kid would stop breathing in the middle of the night that I’d wake up every fifteen minutes. I kept thinking, What if he dies and everyone knows I’m a horrible father and will never talk to me again and then I’d have to live with that for the rest of my life, that my kid died on my watch, that I didn't take good care of my kid. And ever since then I’ve never been able to sleep very soundly.
“How old’s the kid now?” I asked.
“Twenty-two,” Alan replied.
So there you have it. The heroism of ordinary people who walk the streets, our secret sorrows, the invisible burdens the better among us bear without complaining, never even knowing what they do is a huge, noble deal.