For Jews, the Cossacks are always coming. Therefore I think the sun spot on my arm is melanoma. Therefore I celebrate New Year's Eve by counting my annual dead. My mother, when she was dying, spoke to her visitors of books and travel, displaying serenity as a form of manners, though I could tell the difference. But when I watched you planning for a life you knew you'd never have, I couldn't explain your genuine smile in the face of disaster. Was it denial laced with acceptance? Or was it generations of being English-- Brontë's Lucy in Villette living as if no fire raged beneath her dun-colored dress. I want to live the way you did, preparing for next year's famine with wine and music as if it were a ten-course banquet. But listen: those are hoofbeats on the frosty autumn air.
From The Last Uncle by Linda Pastan, published by W. W. Norton & Company. Copyright © 2002 by Linda Pastan. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.