I’ve just finished a whirlwind trip to St. Louis. I’m sitting in my living room listening to the rain and idly watching the Food Network, my idea of mindless television.
Patrick, my son, went with me. We started traveling together when he was two months old, with a flight on a twenty-seater from Springfield to St. Louis for my father’s funeral. We’ve been many places since then and usually travel well together. This time, we groused a bit at each other. He thinks my driving is too uncontrolled; I think he cuts braking a little close. But by and large, we made the rounds of family in pleasant harmony, finishing any moment of discord with laughter.
Everywhere I went this weekend, I wore a scarf given to me by my sister-in-law. I found myself holding its soft fabric out in front of me, reading the words written on each end. In delicate script, the piece urges the wearer to follow her true north. That concept appeals to me.
My experiences this weekend have reinvigorated me. My cousin Paul inspired me with his courage and sweet acceptance of his situation, not to mention how much fun the four of us had visiting in the cool, sunny air on his deck. From that visit, we melded into the urban crowd in the Central West End with surprising ease. That evening in the city culminated with coffee at Joyce Kramer’s house, at a table where my son and I have always been unhesitatingly welcome, even with last minute notice.
On Saturday, I found that my sister, Joyce, has turned adversity into an opportunity to expose her most loving and tender character. How wonderful to see her coming through, still surviving, still standing. That evening, we walked into a restaurant in South St. Louis, only to be swept into a warm embrace and introduced to my niece Chelsea’s co-workers as her visiting family. Seeing her shine, seeing the light in her eyes and the health in her smile; such a privilege!
After dinner, we wandered downtown, through Soulard and Lafayette Square, then to Beale on Broadway. I sat at a table there with my son, listening to blues, one of the musics of my own youth, music both he and I love. I watched him as he in turn watched the band, turning once in a while to make sure I had caught the beginning chords of a particularly exciting number. Then, Sunday morning, we slipped south and west of the city to share breakfast at Cowan’s in Washington, Missouri, with the incomparable Mrs. Harlan Broch, my niece Amy. Finding Amy has got to stand as one of the top ten events of my life. Both Chelsea and Amy surely know how dear they are to me; if not, someone — please — tell them, in case I never get the chance.
I take these experiences into my heart. With these joys to warm me, I’m setting myself on a path to find my true north. There is so much love in my life; how can I fail? I’m taking that love and helping myself to heal. I’m letting myself be forgiven, giving myself clemency, and moving forward.
“In our best moments, we understand that our vulnerabilities are what connect us. That we can step into the power that is uniquely ours. Play hard, love bravely, offer comfort to our younger, broken selves, and soar, always soar, on the brightness of being alive. Follow your TRUE NORTH.” — Kelly Rae Roberts