Monday, August 12, 2013

"Doesn't Life Matter to Them?"

"If David Sedaris and Annie Dillard had a literary love child 
and raised him in Iowa, he would write like this."

~ The Iowan, in a review of John Price's Book

"Doesn't life matter to them?"

This is the question that author John Price asks himself in his memoir, Daddy-Long Legs: The Natural Education of a Father, concerning his two grandmothers. He had learned that his 90-something year-old grandmother had decided to quit taking her numerous medications and let nature run its course, which brought up thoughts of his other grandmother who, in her 90's, decide to do nothing when she was diagnosed with brain cancer.

"What's wrong with these old women?" he wrote. "Doesn't life matter to them?"

Then, in a flash of insight, he responded to his own question when he wrote, "That was a question I probably should've been asking myself on a more regular basis." For Price had been facing a bit of a crisis. He was a struggling English professor in his late 30's, trying to hammer out a novel, worrying how he would provide for his wife and children. 

A few weeks before receiving the news of his grandmother, he had had a major health incident that felt a lot like a heart attack. Not only had he been consumed with worry over financial matters; he had also been consumed by guilt that he didn't have or make the time to participate in the normal life of his family. He had had his eye on what he perceived to be a higher good.

This is why his question about his grandmothers was so ironic. He had been measuring what matters in life by an objective standard, if you will, rather than a subjective one. To him, quantity in and of life was more important than quality. But as soon as he had asked his question, he realized that life did in fact matter very much to his grandmothers. They had both lived long, sometimes difficult lives and had given much. They had lived life, but now it was time to bow out gracefully. Price, however, was going to be left to answer his question: did Life matter to him?

I related very much to what John was going through because of my own experience as a father trying to provide for his family and missing out on so much in the process. I could also relate because of my experience in the Mormon Church, which places so much emphasis on the "next life" at the expense of this life, that one is prompted to ask, "Doesn't life matter to them?"

I am only about a fifth of the way through Price's book, but I suspect that the rest of it is spent answering his question, but as directed to him. I'm intrigued to read how Price writes about death, but also about life.


  1. Intriguing! Now I am compelled to read his book. I have been a subscriber to the Dylan Thomas philosophy expressed in his Do Not Go Gentle poem:

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Maybe grandma’s exit is not-gentle!


  2. It's an interesting book ... But I'm withholding judgment. He continues to make observations - as I read - that I find insightful and applicable to my own situation ...