Tuesdays with Morrie
The Tenth Tuesday - The Eleventh Tuesday
The Tenth Tuesday: We Talk about Marriage
Morrie can no longer eat any of the food Mitch brings him, as he is restricted to a diet of liquids. His condition is drastically worse, as the disease has reached his lungs, which he had always said would mark his death. He is now reliant on an oxygen tank, and suffers violent, hour-long coughing spells, each a serious threat to his life.
Mitch brings his wife, Janine, with him to meet Morrie. Morrie had been asking to meet Janine since his first meetings with Mitch. One night, Morrie had been on the phone with Mitch, and he had asked to speak to Janine. Janine had taken the phone and conversed with Morrie as if they had been friends for many years, though they had never spoken before. Mitch thought that had he been put in her position, forced to speak on the phone with a complete stranger, he would have refused to take the call. When Janine had finished her conversation with Morrie, she announced that she would be joining Mitch on his next trip to Boston to meet his professor.
Morrie, Mitch reports, is a harmless flirt, and seems to have tapped new energy with Janine by his side. Janine is originally from Detroit, and Morrie tells a "funny story" about his time teaching at a university there. On occasion, he and the other sociology professors would congregate to play a game of poker. One of the other professors was a surgeon, and he had invited Morrie to join him at work to watch him perform a surgery. Morrie had gone to see the surgery, but was nauseated by the sight of blood. Just as he had felt ready to faint, one of the nurses mistook him for a doctor, and had asked if he was feeling well. Morrie had yelled at the nurse that he was not a doctor, and had stormed out of the room feeling sick.
Janine is a professional singer, and performs a song form Morrie when he asks her to, though she does not normally sing upon request. When she has finished singing, Morrie is so moved, he is crying. Afterwards, Morrie lectures Mitch and Janine on the how the culture of "kids today" makes "their generation" too selfish to commit to a loving relationship. Morrie and his wife, Charlotte, have been married for forty-four years. The only time Morrie will not reveal a personal anecdote is when he fears he may violate Charlotte's privacy. He says that marriage is a test; in it, you learn who you are, who the other person is, and how you can or cannot make the relationship work. Similar values, he says, are essential for partners to share, the greatest of which is the importance of the marriage itself. He advocates marriage as "a very important thing to do," and preaches that those who do not try it will miss out on a major life experience. Later, Mitch asks Morrie if he recalls the Book of Job from the Bible, the parable about a good man who God makes suffer only to test his religious faith. Morrie tells Mitch that in his opinion, God "overdid it."
The Eleventh Tuesday: We Talk about Our Culture
Morrie's disease is spreading to his lungs, and soon he will die of suffocation. His physical therapist instructs Mitch on how to free the poison in Morrie's lungs through pounding and massage. Mitch jokes that the blows are revenge for the B grade Morrie had given him in college.
Mitch is now less self-conscious and less embarrassed about helping Morrie. Now, he wants to observe and learn how to help him. Even Morrie is less embarrassed by his own physical handicaps, such as not being able to go to the bathroom without assistance. He reports that he and Morrie now hold hands regularly. Morrie complains that the culture deems that natural physical need is socially embarrassing, and thus we must reject it. Mitch asks him why he had not moved to a place with a less selfish culture. Morrie tells him that every culture has its own problems, thus he has created his own. The biggest problem with most cultures, he says, is its inability to visualize and utilize its potential. Morrie advises that we must "invest in people," as we need others not only at the very beginning and very end of our lives, but during our middle years, as well.
Later that day, Connie and Mitch watch the O.J. Simpson murder trial verdict on television. Simpson is found not guilty, and Connie is appalled. Mitch notes the racial division in the response to the verdict: blacks celebrate, whites mourn.
Mitch flashes back to a basketball game held in the Brandeis University gymnasium in 1979. The team is doing well and chants, "We're number one!" Morrie stands and shouts, "What's wrong with being number two?" The students fall silent.
Since his second visit, Mitch has brought Morrie delicious food to eat each time he arrives, as he remember's his professor's passion for food. Mitch had brought the food because he believed it was the only thing he could give to Morrie that would ameliorate his pain. Now that Morrie can no longer eat solid food, Mitch again feels helpless as he did when his favorite uncle died, as he is powerless against Morrie's disease and powerless to stop him from dying. Now, he feels he cannot even bring him happiness by buying him food each week. However, on his eleventh Tuesday with Morrie, Mitch begins to understand how he can provide for Morrie, even without the gift of good food. It is on this Tuesday that Mitch sheds his embarrassment at Morrie's physical shortcomings, and instead of simply watching Morrie's aides help him with his routine, as he usually does, Mitch offers to involve himself, and does, taking lessons from Morrie's physical therapist on how to free the deadly poison from his professor's lungs.
But the gift that Mitch gives to Morrie is intangible. The gift Mitch gives to Morrie is his friendship and his time. Morrie appreciates Mitch not because he brings him good food to eat each week, but because he sits with him, listening for hours to his life stories and soaking up the lessons he teaches to him. The greatest gift Mitch gives to Morrie is the book itself, what they refer to as their 'last thesis' together. Morrie wants Mitch to relay his story and his lessons to the largest audience possible, and Mitch concedes, tape recording every meeting and listening intently to all Morrie has to teach him.
Mitch also provides Morrie with the gift of physical comfort, which Morrie now needs as much as a small baby would from its mother. Morrie thrives on physical affection in part because he was so deprived of it as a boy, but namely because in losing his independence, he has gradually metamorphosed into a child. He is saddened by popular culture's dismissal of physical affection as a form of nurturing that is necessary only during childhood because he knows from experience that it is necessary throughout all stages of life, for children, for adults, and for the elderly.
This idea that Morrie is growing younger as his condition worsens supports his belief in an ever-changing self. Morrie believes that every individual, regardless of age, undergoes infinite transformation, and is aware of the mental, spiritual, and physical changes he has experienced since learning of his illness. Mitch, too, is gradually becoming more aware of the changes he is making in his own life. When Janine agrees to speak with Morrie, who she has never spoken with before, Mitch realizes that, unlike his wife, he would have refused such a call from a stranger, and seems to reassess his behavior, given the easy conversation between Janine and Morrie. Mitch is indeed in a heightened state of self-reassessment and transition, instilled and encouraged by Morrie.
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