Grief is Love

I Keep Trying to Catch His Eye

“Even though I have a lot going for me, I still want something more”

–Max Maisel

According to the page statistics for this blog, over the past few weeks the “unique readers” numbers have moved up from about 850 each week to around 1100. I’m happy about that, of course, but today I’m going to take advantage of that.

Please order and read this book. It will emotionally destroy you, yet it will offer a foundation of hope for the idea of love. Ivan Maisel provides a perspective on loss—in his case the loss of his twenty-one-year old son Max who took his own life—that doesn’t so much turn that loss into something positive, of course, but certainly demonstrates that with all loss, but especially the profound loss of one’s son, one can recognize just how deeply love had rooted itself.

Add to this that the book is written by one of my favorite writers. He has the unique ability to proceed as a journalist who occasionally allows a comment reflecting what the reader has to be thinking to sneak in the window of his prose. He’s that good, a man who spent his life writing about sports, which provides that edge of humor one must have to keep the subject fresh, and the insight of a journalist who has done his homework. On my list of favorite writers, which is nearly packed with journalists, Ivan Maisel has been in the top five, but this book just pushed him to the top of that list.

And yet, I am haunted by this book for how it grabbed hold of my anxiety about losing those close to me and tightened its grip. I finished the book earlier today and my chest still hurts, yet I crave more. I want to hear more about Max.

On a personal level, the book digs deep into not only my present but my past. My son was born just eleven months before Max; my son is a photographer by trade, just like Max, he is for the most part also a very quiet person and finds as much comfort in the natural world as he ever would in a room full of people. Further, Ivan’s brother-in-law, Sean, and Sean’s wife Deb are dear friends of mine whom I’ve known since we ourselves were twenty-one, and Sean can best be described as my “brother from another mother.” To connect further, I understand the concept of “missing” someone, hoping to hear good news, knowing you won’t. A couple of months after Max’s disappearance, Ivan and Meg Maisel were told of the recovery of their son; I never learned what happened to my friend, but Ivan artfully demonstrates there is still no closure in the knowledge, there is no resolution.

But I could have no connection at all; might never have met anyone in the family, not have understood what it is to have someone you care for go missing, not have a son of my own, and this work speaks to me because it is truly about each of us who loves and has lost. It is a profound work when you consider the eroding sense of “appreciation” of those we love. It is a wake up call.

I’ve read Ivan’s work for years before this tragic incident redirected his prose for this book. I’ve enjoyed his casual professionalism, his succinct yet deeply engaging style. He’s really good. But this is the first time I’ve read his work and he doesn’t make me feel like I’m reading as much as if he’s talking to me, handed me a cup of coffee or a beer, sat on the stool across the kitchen island, and poured his heart out, never making me feel uncomfortable as much as he, through his description of grief, helped me better understand love.

“Grief is Love,” someone told Ivan. That resonated with me like little has in a very long time: “Grief is Love.” It calls to mind my own losses, from dear, dear friends to my beautiful father, that in the grief we experience, and which never completely dissipates, we come to recognize just how deeply we loved someone for the contrast to be so stark, and reminds us to be glad for that.

But I Keep Trying to Catch His Eye is about Max, whose life lasted twenty-one years but whose narrative continues, like a character who slid just offstage but who remains in eyeshot of the other characters, and everything they do is the result of Max’s dynamic presence.

I am a parent, so this book sits in my throat; and I am a writer, so this book stirs up deep admiration of a colleague whom I already recognized as a master of our craft, though I’ve never met him. But I am a human who loves and cries, who has lost people close to me, and doesn’t spend nearly enough time with those who are still in my life. And this book calls to me.

Honestly, if you’ve hung in there with this blog for all this time, trust me when I say you truly must read this book. Click on the book cover now:

I Keep Trying to Catch His Eye

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