Monday, May 31, 2010

"I get worse every day"

Those were the words written on the dry wipe board that my mother brought out of her husband's hospital room this evening. Tears in her eyes, she pointed to them and looked at the ceiling gathering herself.
He is only a few days from radical mouth surgery, and has ahead of him and her more diagnosis, therapy and the rest of his life (hopefully without cigarettes) to master. So those words are completely understandable for his case right now.
After she calmly went back in his room (my mother can face anything, I can assure you) I sat in the waiting room thinking about them and then of course after a while, my mind switched to the other great unknown in my life-the health of my region.
Are we getting worse every day? Is the black sludge creeping closer, inevitably to fight up the Mississippi while coming in with the tide to Lake Pontchartrain, then to the beautiful Tchefuncte and to those quiet waters of Abita that I kayak in?
Will I walk to the bayou one morning with Maddie and see death? Will it happen quickly while it sends me away to live its last without me?
Well, quick answer: I don't think so. Or, most days I don't.

Just as I think he will beat it as he did 10 years ago. Just as I think he will tell us jokes again as he serves his breakfast burritos. I do. He oddly oozes Irish health (fueled by alcohol and a small vegetable diet) and the rage of the unreconstructed Marine that he is, but together those things keep him moving quickly. I know he will never be the same person that he was 10 years ago, but I also know that he has done more than survived in these 10 years; he has actually lived well. Now, he must live a little less well but also do more than survive. A hard lesson.

I sit in that odd waiting area with certainty. My certainty comes from the way that life has shown itself to me over the last 45 years as small truths wrapped in confusing, competing messages. I notice that decisions come often from lack of clarity, rather than from a grand moment. Clarity is rare and what is to be does not show itself all at once for us. Only in movies. So the dynamic duo of hope and action are the ways we manage until that moment comes. That is why I think that his moment will not come during this dramatic surgery, but how he handles the aftermath. His decision. Her decision.

So, I think this is true for all of us. I know our region will never be the same as it was before this, but we gotta accept (love) what we get. While that is so, we need to keep the rage and love and respect of natural places in the front of our hearts so we can keep hope and action ready.. We need to be prepared at every moment for meandering decision-less moments that will lead us to more tragedy. We cannot expect this to end. We can only hope it will.
And then, knowing that, walk back in there with resolve and grit trying to keep it alive.

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