The Women’s March, the inauguration of a misogynist and the death of a dear friend who supported his candidacy are woven into the fabric of this weekend for me.
My husband joined the march in Montpelier last year, alone, too consumed was I in grief to leave our home.
The irony is that this friend died the night before her President was inaugurated.
We fought about him intensely on Facebook, while in private messages we connected around her health and our sons, and in person we doted on one another with love.
On the day after the election, Laura was so present to my grief that despite her joy, she ached with compassion, messaging me encouragement about how #45 might give rise to even greater women’s empowerment.
Laura loved animals and was fierce in protection of them. She was a strong woman. Outspoken. Big-hearted. Even when we were girls.
Although we came of age in the same shore towns and danced at each other’s weddings, we both moved away, and the distance between us was magnified by the all-consuming responsibility of parenthood until a funeral brought us together, and she said, “Let’s don’t wait so long,” and we didn’t.
We were together at the shore on her last birthday and in the mountains on my 50th, and we had plans to be together outside Philly on the weekend before the inauguration, but Laura ended up in the hospital again where she remained until I received these words from our mutual bestie:
“The thing about time is that time isn’t really real…”
The Secret of Life, by James Taylor
What is it about the second time around that makes something go faster? Like when you’re heading to some new place just a little ways out of town… and you’re reading the directions for each turn… and it seems to take forever… only to seem half as long on the way back?
It was that way with my second reading of Prodigal Summer. I spotted a copy at the second hand store and brought it home to steep in its long steamy July from deep within this January snow.
I settled in for a long expected pleasure of this read, only to arrive toward the end too soon. I was sure someone moved my bookmark. I checked the previous chapter, but I had already read it.
My suspicion lingered, even after I finished the book. Just to be sure, I spot checked a few different chapters, but they had all been read.
I wanted more. I wanted to know about Deanna and the baby, and follow Eddie Bondo back West. I wanted to see Nannie Rawley kiss Mr. Walker, and to watch Lusa mother those kids, and Rickie become a man.
What is it about “more” that we think will satisfy us? How are we all such junkies to it?– as if we’d could ever be satisfied–with just one more chapter or one more scene or one more chance to…
I got to thinking about the nature of time as I trudged up the hill outside my home. There I was, a 47 year old child, with a sled in my hand. I realized then, that I was finally, finally in less of a rush. Even though I hadn’t skiied or snowshoed yet this winter, and had only skated once, there was time. I knew there would be more winters–even within this one.
At the same time, I knew how abruptly time could shift a life, no more evident for than the day my first son was born–two weeks early. I hadn’t even laundered the diapers.
While I labored, my husband threw them into the wash, and I’ll never forget the sight of them strung on the line–Forever a reminder of how suddenly life can change. How one could be thrust into a new beginning; how something that seemed to last forever, like a summer pregnancy, could suddenly end.
–Or that a lifetime raising kids could just a quickly be something of the past, growing further and further away, until there was nothing left but memories of grown men who were once on my lap.
I know that a life can end like that too. When I think about those diapers on the line, I imagine my own death might take me by surprise. I imagine all the things I hadn’t yet done.
As a doctor’s daughter, I’m no stranger to death. I lost a loved one to an accident when I was young which left me acutely aware of how a single moment could be your last–How a casual rebuke of a goodbye kiss from a your husband could be something you’d regret forever.
I wish I could say that I live my life with greater respect for the moment because of this awareness, but even funeral directors don’t. I’ve asked them.
This isn’t a very hopeful sign for our human carelessness with time. But then I remember that I don’t have to get it right in every moment, that I can get it right most of the time–this week or this month or this year or over a lifetime.
“Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real,” goes the song.”Try not to try too hard.”
Sometimes life makes so much more sense inside a song, which is how I felt as I slid down that hill in the snow–ageless me and the timeless sky.
My work has been more of a medley–mostly fear–with a little ego sprinkled in here and there–and even a touch of visioning– something which the wise monk waited to do until his 5th day when he had cleared out everything else.
It may be that my fear has more layers than his, or that he is more efficient with his time. No doubt, he isn’t the mother of two, wife of another; nor a YogaDance instructor or a life coach finishing up with clients. He’s definitely not a blogger or an email checker or Facebook poster or Twitterer. He’s not following the elections or making calls to voters. Perhaps he IS planning dinner.
That said, a commission from the King to a carpenter, even a master, is as demanding a gift as the one I’ve been given–and that makes the Zen monk and me companions across the seas of time and continents and desire.
Although I’ve lagged behind his progress, I can be a quick study, so perhaps by the end of this day, I will be ready to begin my work, just as the master craftsman was after his fifth day of “preparation.”
In fact, I’ve already dusted off my great-grandmother’s atlas, the one in which she marked all the places to which she and my merchant marine great-grandfather traveled in the early and mid 1900s.
After marveling once again over its pages, like I did as a child on her lap, I decide that this is the first item that I will pack for my new role. This large volume will sit beside my desk as testimony to a lifetime fascinated with the world at large. Its hard and faded ruby red cover will root me to that desire and to my great-grandmother who fertilized that dream in me.
The thing is, when I examine my fears more closely–the hours, the juggling of work and home, the limited time to soften my soul into writing, the need to get dressed for the public on a daily basis–it’s of little matter.
Somehow, for the first time, the essence of the work transcends. Whether I won the lottery, or got a book deal, or found out that I was sick, I’d still want to be connected to this role.
That itself is terrifying; and I’m not sure why.
The only thing I can liken it to is love. For despite the literal laundry list of chores and aggravation that parenting brings, it has been my richest endeavor. And despite the challenges that accompany marriage, I’m equally as enamored. Both of these roles transcend the “work” involved by their connection to the heart.
Perhaps I’m afraid that there isn’t room for another…
Kelly Salasin, November 3, 2010
To see the post at the beginning of this week of “preparation” click here: The Fire of FEAR
A four-year old girl stands with a tiny suitcase in hand as a passenger ferry pulls into dock. When she spies her father on the second-story deck, she jumps up and down, shouting: “That’s my daddy! That’s my daddy!”
Surprisingly, that little girl is me (almost forty years ago). I can still remember the smell of the docks warmed by the summer sun, and the sounds of gulls flanking the ship as her stern squeezed itself into the snug embrace of the piers.
“That’s my daddy! That’s my daddy!” I yelled, tugging my Nana’s arm into the air. I had come to spend my first overnight at her house, and we had a wonderful day together. We picked berries, walked along the boardwalk, and visited the beach. I helped pluck ripe tomatoes from her backyard garden and met her friend, the frog, who frequented there.
But when the call came that afternoon to check on me, it was all over. As soon as I heard my father’s voice on the phone, I fell to pieces, saying that I wanted him to come get me, right then.
Decades later this response seems a major miracle–given my father’s lifetime indifference to the emotional aspects of parenting, and the challenging relationship we shared once I was older.
Even more amazing is the fact that I wasn’t down the street or across town, I was in another state–and a couple hours away– including a ferry trip across the Delaware Bay.
The story grows even more climatic, however, as my penny-wise, pragmatic father, forgoes his plans to have my Nana board me–and crosses the ramp himself to lift me into his arms–because he can’t resist my excitement; thereby having to pay an additional return fee.
“That’s my daddy! That’s my daddy!” That phrase has taken on mythical qualities in the family history, but you’d have to hear like I do with the twang of my Nana’s Delaware accent. She retold that story on each visit we made to her seaside town of Rehoboth; so that by the time that I was in my twenties, I was no longer sure if I remembered any of it from experience, or if it was simply her telling that I knew so well.
But it doesn’t matter, because it served the same purpose: it anchored the affection between me and my father– for a lifetime. Perhaps, Nana, in her great-grandmotherly wisdom, knew that we would need to draw upon this for many years to come.
As I grew up, it was my mother who I found easier to love. She and I easily became friends as I entered adulthood. With my father, things grew increasingly difficult, particularly as I began to spread my wings, and even more so after my parents divorce.
My father had been the one prone to anger, erratic discipline, and increasingly absent from our lives. He had always provided for our family, and we were proud of his work as a surgeon, but what we really craved was his time and affection–something he never seemed able or comfortable enough to give in any satisfying doses.
And yet, strangely enough, it is his shining moments of devotion that are strung along in my mind’s history of our dance together. At eight years old, I remember the day when I discovered that my mother had disposed of my beloved “blankies,” telling me once and for all that I had grown too old for them. This triggered an episode of hysteria in me that my father might typically dismiss with a fury, but instead it was he who listened to my tears.
Like a knight in shining armor, he rescued my blankies and returned them to me–pleasantly amused at my passion–and perhaps the simplicity with which he could play the hero.
In looking back, it might be that my father was the more tender-hearted one of my parents after all. He was certainly more prone to the range of emotions that accompany one who acts from the heart. Or maybe it was simply that his moments of grace were so few and far apart that they took on larger-than-life proportions. Whatever it was that possessed him to sudden strokes of fatherly greatness, the memory of them lasts to this day.
My favorite story is not the “That’s my Daddy” tale that my great-grandmother loved to tell, but another precious drama that occurred just between the two of us–forever etched into my heart in its unforgettable intimacy.
I was a snowy day in downtown Philadelphia, 1969. I was just five years old and waiting outside in the cold for my daddy to pick me up from kindergarten. He was in his third year of medical school at Jefferson.
Schools were different in those days. They didn’t keep track of every child, and there wasn’t someone “on duty” to attend to stragglers. Thus, no one saw my tiny frame, standing there in the deepening snow, and no one suggested that I come inside while they called home.
In fact, when I trudged through the snow back to the entrance, I found the janitor locking the doors, and learned that my only option was to re-enter this tall city instution from around the back–which seemed very far away to a little girl who was certain that her father would not look for there and that she’d be left forever.
I was told to wait out front, so I did, shivering as the snow fell upon me.
My father never did remember me until he arrived home that afternoon an hour late to my mother’s panic: “Where’s Kelly Ann!?”
By the time he sped up to the curb, my teeth were chattering and icy tears were rolling down my cheeks. My young father quickly lifted me into the car, turned the heat up, took my hands in his and warmed them with his breath.
Then he removed my socks and shoes and placed my frozen feet–and this is the best part–under his shirt, snug against his belly.
We rode home like that, our bodies touching, his warming mine.
To this day, that act stands out as one of the most loving moments of my life. In fact, I repeatedly challenge my husband’s devotion by insisting he warm my cold feet against his belly each winter night.
Sometimes, when I find myself filled with resentment for my father’s failure to strive toward any of the “Hallmark” measures of parenting, I see that little girl with the suitcase in hand, jumping up and down, shouting with glee, “That’s my daddy! That’s my daddy!”And I decide to give this love story another chance…