The Heart of the (Grey) Matter


For weeks now, I’ve been thinking about the next phase of my jarred life. The brain motif perfectly captured my grandfather and father’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Heck, it wasn’t even a symbol. It was real. Dad kept grand-dafinal-brain1.jpgd’s brain in a jar.

But I am me, not he. And I am moving into a post-brain milieu. Literally. Figuratively. Really. Fragiley. (Is “fragiley” a word? And if it is, does it have an e?)

So what’s my story gonna be? One in which I wonder, and sometimes worry, about the future of my own identity? Will I get Alzheimer’s disease? Will I take my family to see the Taj Mahal? Will I avenge a murder that took place in Seoul 25 years ago by publishing a book about the twisted saga? The Korean story makes the Amanda Knox trial look like a parking violation dispute.

Managing, measuring–and maybe remembering–all this life and death will take a lot of heart.

That’s it! And it has already been written. Mine is a chronicle foretold. By me!

Here are the last few paragraphs of Brain in a Jar, which is part of a letter to my son:

Memories fade. Will my life grow more worthless with each blurred recollection? Not a chance. Life is measured in love—not brain mass. I struggle to remember my dead stepbrother’s face now, but I still love Craig as much as I ever did. And I certainly don’t remember the Philippines of my youth, but I adore it just the same. Feeling trumps thinking. Remember that.

I want you to go live your own life.As for me, if genetics repeats itself, it’ll be like that bus in Singapore. I don’t need to know what’s happening to be content. When all is said and done, I hope you will discover what Beau never did in all his searching.

It’s the heart that belongs in a jar.


It’s time to take my own words to heart. The next phase of my writing life, and my own life, is about courage. The kind that the Lion in the Wizard of Oz didn’t know he already had.

The future is not about holding onto grey matter. It’s about making memories and setting them free.

Or, more fragiley, capturing them here for all to see.


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