The day unfolds with its usual awkward grace. After coffee and shower, I carefully wrap two fragile items which need to go from me to someone who has taken a path away from me. I nestle them in a box that I’ve culled from the stack of bins. Then I carry the box to the footwell of the Prius for transport. I pretend not to see the piece of my heart caught in the folds of the bubble wrap.
At the grocery store, I run into an old friend who works there. We give each other insincere hugs and plastic smiles. I press him to tell me how he is, though I can see it in the crimson streaks splintering his eyes. I suppress a gasp at the stern set of his jaw. I think, but do not say, that alcohol has gotten the better of him.
I’m greeted at the door of my office building by the impossibly young woman who serves as my secretary, despite my flaws, despite the mountains she must climb to meet the task. She reaches into the car to draw out all the things which I cannot carry. Juggling her load, she holds the door of the building so that I may enter. I’m halfway up the stairs before the absurd tenderness assails my senses. I choke on my gratitude and the moment passes.
A little while later, after I get control of my morning, I sit and listen to a grandmother cry about the four-year-old who does not yet speak, who cringes at the sight of her mother, at the foul language of the maternal grandfather and the shenanigans of the child’s mother. Her son sits by her side, rarely speaking, bursting forth once in a while. What I read between the lines tells me more than their words. The son, who is my actual client, leaves after an hour. We women sit and speak with an unguarded frankness, of her boy, and his baby, and all that she fears.
At one, the three women who serve on my benefit’s organizing committee arrive. We go through the agenda, item by item. I feel unsettled by the process. I speak my piece on a few hard items, try to keep us on task, and once again succumb to the inevitable wave of admiration for their spirit. I do not feel up to their standard, but I try. At least I try.
Miranda, the faithful secretary, spends a half hour listening to my sorrow and then, I leave, to go prepare for the potluck supper which my Rotary Club hosts each First Thursday. We’ve adopted an apartment building which houses young adults aging out of the foster system. Each tenant has a developmental disability, but despite challenges, most have jobs or attend school. We’re having a taco bar for them this month. I’m to bring vegetarian baked beans, since I don’t eat meat, flour, or dairy. I find myself laughing as I hurry back to the store for ingredients and then, home. . .
. . . where I find, on my doorstep, a belated birthday present from my son. I open the card. As I read what he has written, I begin to weep in earnest, noisily, without relent. The present seals the deal. He’s shot an arrow tipped not with poison but with love. It hits its mark and I collapse into a chair, unable to keep myself upright any longer.
An hour later, I pull into the parking lot of 7540 Washington for our Community Partnership dinner. A group of young folk sit at the picnic table in the little yard. As I get out of the car, several stand and say, Do you need help? They move over to me then, without waiting for my answer. I gesture to the warm pan on the seat beside me, and one of them lifts it, and says, What else can we do?
Together we enter the building. One of the Rotarians comes over to me and exclaims, I didn’t know you would be here!
And there, in the bosom of family, I find my peace, if only for an hour.
It’s the eighth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Digital Image c. Patrick C. Corley, 2017