The summer of 2010 is over. For me, it was a wild one. It started with the birth of my nephew in the North Carolina heat; it ended with a family reunion at a rented vacation home on the foggy West Coast, in Guerneville.
In between, my kids became … more themselves. (Taller, thinner, more adventurous.) The father of a friend died. My job in one place ended, and I launched another, at Kaiser in Oakland. And on, and on.
I watch the roll of each day into the next with curiosity; hope; sometimes weariness. This is what life does. It refuses to let up. It pushes between the concrete blocks of what “they” say it is, like flowering weeds. It washes up against the rock of our resolve to stay the same. Every day, it has something new for us.
It absolutely demands our attention.
Nine years ago today, my kid sister was a student teacher in Portland. The man who would be her husband, then a nurse, was an ocean away, traveling in Europe. She was teaching that morning when the towers fell in New York. Most of her friends worked around downtown NYC; when I heard from her, she had heard from none of them. I listened as she fell apart on the phone.
It was the first feeling of that day (and the second, and the third): Life as we know it is over. Nothing will ever be the same. This is the new ‘normal’.
And yet life did go on. My sister’s Portland friends wrapped around her that night, as I had hoped they would; they made her dinner and rented a movie (Cast Away) to distract her. She got some rest. Eventually she heard from her friends in New York: all but one.
The Friday of that week, my own future husband and I went out for the first time after that bad day (finding the “new normal” quite crowded). We went to a Thai place, then to a bar.
A song came on the jukebox at the bar, and I cried. I had not heard it before, and I haven’t heard it since. Considering the jingoistic phase we all went through for a time, this surprises me.
I think it was the line, “Keep your heart/As open as a shrine,” that got me. That’s my kid sister. And the thing about the open heart is that it breaks. It’s not fair, not fair at all; but it is so necessary to life.
On the longest day of this year, I was with that sister as she delivered a son, her second child. It’s one of the things she makes look easy, but isn’t. She is just good at it.
My sister and her husband are good at many things: among them, feeding a crowd, dealing with the unexpected, and obviously, raising kids. The skills they have acquired turn out, in the “new normal”, to be important. You can’t really study for them; life has to deliver them to you. They are never gift wrapped.
Here’s to another year of deliveries, good and bad. May they never end.
One day logic was proven all wrong because the tide lifted, came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass. And I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island.
And I know what I have to do now. I have to keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?
– Tom Hanks, Cast Away