Life, I mean.
Two weeks ago, for instance, life was going along swimmingly. I was busy with writing, getting my husband’s work posted on Shopify to sell some of his pen and ink drawings on a wider scale, and I was working on the development of a new arts center in our town. Things with my kids were good. Everyone in the family, extended and otherwise, seemed stable, healthy. Life was humming along. I remember a moment of satisfaction, feeling vital, engaged, safe.
Then the road ahead started to rumble. On a quiet Sunday morning, while J and I were reading the NYTimes and fighting over who could start the puzzle, his mother called and informed us that most probably the family summer home, just a mile away from our house, was going to be sold to an old friend. She would likely get life tenancy, but the gathering place of five generations would be transferred into another family’s hands.
The blow was hard and fairly abrupt. She’d made some noises a few weeks earlier about renting the place out for part of the summer, and that was troubling enough. She had said it was possible she would even sell, but she’s been threatening this almost as long as I’d been in the family, now going on thirty-five years, so we didn’t give it much credence. But now it seemed it was for real.
I got on the phone with my kids who I knew would be heartbroken that this lifelong foundation of family, fun, growth and harmony, would be pulled from underneath them, upending the familial balance, separating them from their cousins, tradition and even their sense of self. They were shocked, and very unhappy to hear this news. My daughter equates this family home to her ‘real’ home on many levels. My son was more circumspect, but felt even more distanced as we spoke over the ‘wires’ from MA to CO.
My husband and I took a walk. We tried to understand and work it through. But we barely had time to digest this pronouncement when our daughter called around dinnertime and said “Daddy, come.”
Agidor, our 14 year-old King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, who she’d been nurturing in his old age, on her own, for the past nine months, had had a seizure and she was racing with him to the vet. Could Daddy come?
J packed his bag for a long night and made his way to her as quickly as possible – an hour and half’s drive from our home to the city, where she lives. But he had to be there for her.
Our son was now not so circumspect. He was hysterical with grief. “I should be there,” he cried, and we had to talk him down from the ledge, his agony so deep, he couldn’t bear the pain. This was his puppy. How could he not be there for him?
It was a tough day. It was a tough few days. Our minds were reeling with sadness. There was confusion about the future. Two of our lives most consistent symbols of family and home had been swiped away in one rapid movement. How did life tip out of balance so quickly?
How can we have such little control? Is that what a life which incorporates others, which includes connections and community is vulnerable to? You have these connections and you rely on them for meaning and validation. But these same attachments are the ones that can abandon you in a flash, throwing you to winds of change, creating disarray. I feel as if I’m tumbling in a churning dryer, grasping at the sides for stability, being tossed in the ocean by waves that keep on coming, keep knocking me down.
And I’m the rock of the family. Not the one easily jostled. My role is to provide the foundation of security and certainty. But if the edges of the walls are crumbling, will I find the cement to sure things up? Can I dig down deeply enough to conger up new ground for our family to stand on?
I realize these are not critical problems. They cannot be compared to homelessness, health problems (though I had a scare this summer), divorce, domestic violence – the
traps and tragedies are long and much more painful. But these are our issues, and our imbalance.
While we are thankful for our luck and fortune, we also acknowledge the thin line between good karma and calamity. Sometimes it seems as if trouble waits around the corner to say “Gotcha” when you least expect it. This could be acute anxiety clouded by the tumultuous election season we are experiencing, or exacerbated by the twenty-four hour news cycle that keeps us on edge and high wired. Even in the relatively remote area on the coast where we live, our lives are infiltrated by uncertainty and angst.
There are good times ahead of course. We’ll welcome the holidays and family times with open arms. We’ll support one another in the everyday nuances of chance and time. And there will be love all around. The seesaw of life however has shown its duplicitous face and we will be wary. Capturing the precious moments but watching for the thunder rolling in from the west.