I grew up on a quiet cul-de-sac nestled in the suburbs of Campbell, California. I was protected and sheltered most of my life. I still am to some degree, but the point being, I felt safe. I was shielded from the harsher realities of life. Of course the normal hardships visited our door but I was vastly inexperienced in the nature of suffering. It would take decades for me to know real suffering, the kind that is rooted in humanity, embeded in the marrow of our collective being. And even though this is true, our miraculous presence in the world offers enough evidence of divine intervention, and in this I stake my soul.
“God saw what God had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31
God came to us as a child, in the midst of enormous suffering, brought us glad tidings, and left us with a new paradigm for love. We celebrate this endowment every December, gathering our loved ones, trimming the damn tree (clearly a sore spot for me). We might look to the star for guidance, but if we are wise, we’ll discover anew our abiding love for each other. A most courageous act in an unpredictable world.
The families that lined our circular street were as different as they were alike. The best part was that every family had at least one girl. In fact the Flamingo Chicks remain friends to this day (although noteworthy, this is beside the point).
“He concluded in the last scene that we are given two choices in life. We can allow ourselves to love and care for others, which makes us vulnerable to their sickness, death, or rejection. Or we can protect ourselves by refusing to love.” CS Lewis
In the back of our yard, behind a grove of pines, was a secret gate, it joined our backyard to that of the Wiesel estate on Dry Creek. In general, the wealthy families lived on Dry Creek, but my sister was good friends with one of the daughters, and so we built a gate. The kids from the Wiesel estate used our yard as a pass through so they could catch the school bus that picked up at the end of our street. In exchange for these easement privileges they allowed us to use a gigantic seesaw tethered on their back lawn.
I remember the joy and fear I felt on that teeter totter. The enormous bounce I experienced when my partner hit the hard ground. The feeling of being catapulted into thin air. It was thrilling. I was liberated from the normal pull of gravity and yet the alternate plunge to the ground was just as exciting and duly anticipated. We would ride that teeter totter for hours, up and down, captured by the predictable rhythm, carrying us away from nominal distractions, to a place where imagination and fantasy reigned.
I’m sorry if you happen to have a writer in your life. All I can do is apologize because in the midst of my apology I’m still writing. Sometimes you get caught in the web of my story, because you know me, you talked to me once, or passed me on the street. Nothing is sacred, ask Larry, it’s a miracle he puts up with me. I write nostalgically when I want to avoid the future, I amend the past when my memories seem daunting, I write about that which I don’t understand, and somehow it all makes sense. If you happen to cross my path, even if it was thirty years ago, you might end up in a blog. I’m sorry, it happens, you can unfriend me. Let’s move on.
Since July I’ve been on a emotional teeter totter, so high was I with the news of my mom’s curable diagnosis last month, and ultimate freedom from her disease. But recently, on the sixth day of December, we were weighed down with new findings, plunged to the hard ground, unable to return to the sky. We are not victims of aging, sickness, and death, this is simply part of the sceniero that surrounds us. No one is immune to a change of health, spirit, character, faith, or wealth. Eventually someone will come along, balance the oscillating platform, and we’ll be back in motion.
“Maybe…a person can experience an illness as a kind of health. Maybe not every disease is a deficit, a taking away. Maybe what’s happening to her is an opening, a window, a migration.” Anthony Doerr
We are doing what everyone does when confronted with bad news, we take it one step at a time, deal with the issue in front of us, decide as we go. Every person reacts differently to treatment and we can not know where this will take us but we’re ready and willing to keep teetering.
Just the other day, before the bad news, mom and I paid a visit to Julie Mae’s house (my oldest daughter). Audrey took her great-grandma on a tour showing off her big girl bed and playroom. Not exactly stable on her feet mom tripped on the step-up from the playroom. She wasn’t hurt, just a little brusied, and frustrated with her instability. We moved slowly to the couch, Nic made us a warm cup of coffee, and we gathered ourselves. I think it was ten minutes before I noticed Audrey lurking in the background, fear etched across her sweet face. She reached out a small hand, gently touching great-grandma’s knee, and asked in a soft two year old voice, “Are you okay?”
From the mouth of babes, if only we had known the fullness of that poignant question, one each of us will be forced to ask ourselves. It’s advent, a time of waiting, and anticipation. Also a time of reflection and pause. I can not deny the overwhelming joy I have experienced this past year, all mixed up with sadness and despair, but I would not give up a single minute. I try to make amends for my own failures, move away from those angry souls that can’t seem to find the light, and pray my partner will keep teetering to my totter. I’ve lost track of who is up and who is down. On the sixth day God said this is good, this is my hope, and on this I will stake my soul.
Merry Christmas, time is short, let’s love each other up with considerable courage and good cheer.
Come visit another blog or two at Living in the Gap.