I spent five hours of this day cleaning a communal space at the park where i live. My body protests but my spirit settles into a pleasant euphoria. I like restoring order.
In my tiny house, the washer hums and the rain patters on the metal roof. The light from my neighbor’s porch shines through the slight part in the curtains. I don’t need the heat anymore in this mild climate. But my bones ache from bending and reaching, so I’ll snuggle under the warmest blanket that I have. I hope to sleep well.
Today I used a little bench that my father made. The tightness of my spastic muscles inhibits any rise from the ground. The bench keeps me high enough to leverage myself upright using whatever nearby structure will hold my weight. My great-grandfather designed the original bench. My father replicated the original. He made mine forty-five years ago, when I started college and moved to my first apartment.
As I hoisted myself from the floor, moving from one shelf to another, wiping grime and vacuuming dust, I thought about my father. By rights, I should hate him. I think even God would understand. He levied such torturous punishment on his wife and children. I still carry the burden of his brutality. The stain of his cruelty mars my soul to this day. I envy those of my siblings who seem to have risen above it.
My brother Frank and I talked about this once. We stood on the sidewalk in front of his south St. Louis home. Night settled around us. I had come to bring gifts for his daughters, carefully packed boxes of china pieces which had belonged to our mother. In the morning, I would drive to Chicago to see my son. Frank and I watched the stars, standing quietly in the autumn air. After a while, he started talking about life, and taking ownership of it, finding one’s own avenue to happiness.
“It’s like this for me,” he said. “Our father was an asshole and our brother killed himself. And then I lived for another twenty years. So much else happened.”
Today I carefully stowed the little bench back in its cubby when I got back home. I like that bench. I plan to keep using it for a long time.
It’s the twenty-second day of the sixty-third month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.