Across the street from where I bought the eggs for this morning’s breakfast, a favorite couple of mine has just become a mom and dad for the third time. You can tell how fond I am: I took the firstborn son to his first circus and he took me on my first elephant ride. (Number One Son also once had his diaper changed center stage in the theater I was managing for the school that brought his dad and me together. Thankfully, the house was empty.)
I never got to know Number Two Son because I retired, his mom found me digs on this side of town and his dad changed schools. We lost touch except through this blog, and a recent brief-but-grand reunion when the dad came to a book reading/signing event—also across the street and a bit north from where I bought this morning’s eggs.
I talked by phone with the couple at the hospital as they began this adventure for their third time. Of course our sentences were enervated with every degree of anxiety known to life itself. And I had only just put the bookmarker in at page 129 of Sherwin Nuland’s National Book Award winning classic How We Die. (I’m re-reading it; the skillfully wrought inside-stories of our final moments tease and nudge so much more now than two decades ago when I read about other folks.)
How gifted I am: a newborn, tiny Adalyn Rose, arrives in the arms of dear friends just after I’ve renewed my blood pressure and cholesterol medications for the Nth time, noticed some new resistance in my arm muscles and read Nuland’s brilliant insertion from Tennyson “Old men must die; or the world would grow moldy, would only breed the past again.” (Old men also race through run-on sentences fearful they won’t get it all said before the period.)
That aforementioned bookmark was a gift too. With the third cup of coffee I have the spark to give it the attention it craves. It is of dark metal, engraved with the Chinese characters for “courage” and ruggedly rigged with a pendant of leather cord and metallic coin. Anais Nin is quoted “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
Yeah right. And my cynical side interjects How old was Nin at that writing? I don’t know but it takes courage not to really care because it matters so little. What matters is the ability to read and find opportunity for the complete measure of life possible.
So with Nin-probed courage, a nudge from Tennyson and the arrival of a baby sister for Number One and Two, I undertake some darker tasks. Get that living will written and processed. Get the right successor’s name on the right bank accounts. Then put on some circus marches and finalize the details for the cross-country sales promotion tour for the memoir, The Circus that Ran Away with a Jesuit Priest.
Because there’s that second elephant ride coming up next year in India.