How was your day? I asked my grandson one afternoon this week. Terrible, I don’t want to talk about it. Then, during snack, he continued, Everyone hates me.
They do? Why? And out tumbled his tale. Ever the entrepreneur, he came up with an idea to make money by selling his classmates pieces of gum during lunch, but one purchaser narked on him to the teacher, who told him that as punishment she was taking away recess from the whole class. Everyone hates me, now, he said, and then he proceeded to do that which is so human and too seldom grown out of, make it someone else’s fault. If So&So hadn’t told on me, he began, everything would be ok.
I interrupted. No, if it was against the rules, you took a chance and lost. Don’t make it about someone else. I didn’t mention that I thought the punishment stupid, excessive, and over the top. I’m not in the classroom every day, and besides his mother is a lawyer. She will have enough opinions for us all. We went on to other things, the rest of our snack, his homework. At some point, he raised his head. I know what I’ll do, he said. I’ll go to the teacher tomorrow and tell her she can punish me but please don’t punish my friends.
I liked that. A boy growing a moral compass.
Interesting moment. I’m in the backyard working on a haiku. The day before I’ve seen a butterfly with cobalt blue on its bottom wings. The blue is only noticeable at certain angles, and the first time I saw it, the beauty of the color made me catch my breath. So I’m sitting outside working with that, the butterfly, the blue, my surprise, and I’m happy, the way I always am when I play with haiku. And my friend calls. She’s calm. The cancer in her husband’s lungs has also touched his lymph nodes. We talk about that, about her faith in the doctor, about the treatment, about how sick he will be in the next months, about how she will keep their business together as he goes through this. The doctor is cautiously optimistic, she says, and she is, too. And so will I be for her, but I wonder if she’s walking toward that final hour in what has been her life with him. She’s one of the few people I know, including myself, who is still married to the same man. I think of a piece of a prayer that comforts me, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. And I think of that flash of cobalt blue and the idea I was playing with, the butterfly as a small magi bringing gifts.
My writing group ends. I’m estranged from someone who has been a loving presence in my life since I was a child. I’m invited to join a group, and the woman who invited me finds out she has cancer. My sponsor leaves town. Someone who taught me how to be a friend, who has remained a friend, who has the sunniest heart I’ve ever encountered, just found out her husband has cancer. Another friend’s husband isn’t healing from a surgery. I’ve finished a book and am in the empty space before another begins, but there seem to be empty spaces everywhere. My mother’s expression is more vacant. I know to expect it, but it’s bigger than I thought it would be. I feel as if I’m standing in a widening circle. The only thing I can do is be still and hold the faith I’ve cultivated these last years close. I will go upstairs and dance it, faith and fear, grief and love, life, life, life, filled with changes I must accept. I have done this before, once stepping out of a car crash of hope. I thought I would die. Didn’t. This is not a car crash. It’s the knots in my rope of friends, of dear ones, unknotting, moving on, or disappearing. I can stand in each fresh little emptiness. I can let them wash over me, teach me, touch me, mold me. Nothing is guaranteed in this life, and yet I must learn it anew each time I’m shaken. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.