The first time, I was propped up in bed nursing, needing to leave for work now that she was there to take care of my baby. He was six months old. She watched us wistfully, kindly, even though I felt too transparent to be seen, too delicate. If she saw me, I may have to see me: rushed, exhausted, compulsively making beds, tidying, high on adrenaline, crazed. She mothered me too. She is the one who tells me I’m doing well with this impossible job. Can that have been more that three years ago? Every photo she takes of him, every time they’re together, is open-mouthed smiling joy.
She grapples with illness-- the chronic sort-- and often has bad news to share, but only if I ask. "It's a nightmare," she said the last time she was here, "I had no idea I was going deaf too. Turns out I need hearing aides in both ears and insurance doesn’t cover it." So eyesight is an acceptable impairment to remedy but not hearing, I say incredulous. Teeth, eyes, ears, medication: separate brands of coverage to battle for that aren’t included in a basic package. Because, they say, hearing aides are lifestyle choice.
They go further and further into debt because she’s sick, as if that’s not enough. She must feel betrayed and bewildered by the body she can’t much count on other than to waver. I’m comforted by her faith, church; community buttressing her. Now a salivary gland needs surgery. Teeth, jaw, eyes, prism glasses, one thing grinds to a halt and then another, dismantling and rearranging like teetering Jenga blocks. We need her. A lot of people do. She’s living in a body (temple, chrysalis, corpus, chassis, collection of molecules, coalescence of energy) I wish I could fix. Hers is not the only body I wish I could fix.
I wish I could make it fair here. I wish the most primitive, elemental of all wishes, that there not be injustice, suffering, horror. Does the world's weight ever feel too crushing while somehow you're expected to cheerfully lumber under it's enormity, wobbling, shuddering, chin staying up while you say how are we not hitting the drink right now or whatever-it-is that might take us away? Do you live like I do, assigning yourself a perfect speckled egg to hold on a spoon and not drop while you run up and down on jaggedy ground in a relay race because you know it will make you remember the beautiful fragile fleetingness?
"No mud, no lotus," says the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. In related news, my kid won't poop in the toilet theses days even though he's perfectly gifted in knowing just when he has to void, and it’s currently unclear if this is from fear, (even of the frog potty) reluctance to interrupt play, or just preference for standing over sitting (the former being a biomechanical advantage). He requests a pull-up, dons it specifically for this occasion because underwear washing was becoming too constant, and this is how we do it. Acceptance, gratitude, endurance. There is nothing more potent than parenting to teach you to stay out of stories (obviously I need more practice), go through the actual shit and mud, and just march in this parade of struggle to earn lotus. To earn the right to the stunningly beautiful, blindingly bright moments, or even just the ordinary nice ones. I know I must appreciate even the terrible tedium of a weekend marked by broken sink and leaking roof and life with a strong tiny tyrant who lately expresses frustration by throwing things, kicking and hitting us, screaming and other dramatic off-putting displays many times a day in between being charming, cuddly and amusing. I can think of a million exponentially worse things people are surviving right now and I wonder why it’s so reflexive to compare situations. Wouldn’t it be peaceful just to accept the way it is without "at least" or "it could be worse", without metric of better than this/worse than that?
It's sand sprinkling right through fingers; schmaltzy soap-opera violin music playing, a big hourglass draining, the opening sequence of Days of Our Lives. Credits rolling. Yes, it’s like that: long days/short years, the longest-shortest time, numbered days, and the exhortation to soak it all in. Make something funny, make something beautiful, roll around on the floor, do something different. It's all we got. Soak it in.