Another day of grading. By this time tomorrow night, I hope to be done with everything. I have only my students' final exams to complete. That's six essay questions for 22 students. If you're doing the math, that means 132 short answer essays stand between me and peace of mind. That may seem like a lot. It's not, compared to what I was facing at the beginning of the weekend.
I am brain dead at the moment. I need to go to bed. Still have to work tomorrow morning. Plus a dentist appointment. And then a meeting at the university in the evening.
About a year ago, I had a completely different worry.
August 6, 2015: Fragility of Life, Absolutely Go to Heaven, Sharon Olds, "My Father's Eyes"
I've been thinking a lot about the fragility of life. Yesterday, as I
was hiking up from the base of a waterfall, I nearly slipped off the
edge of the hill into the valley below. Lots of rocks. It would have
been a very hard landing. In the space of a few seconds, my life could
have changed forever.
Of course, that's always the case
with anybody. Things happen. You walk into a party and meet your
future spouse. You have a romantic evening, and suddenly you're a
parent. You go to see your doctor, and she tells you that there's a
mass in your abdomen. You wake up in the morning with a pain in your
side, and in the evening, you're in an operating room, having your
appendix removed. Fragility.
I have plans. Syllabi to
put together. Poems to write. An attic to clean out. These things
are all on my to-do list. I make lists. All the time. Those lists
help me feel in control. Notice I used the word "feel." In reality, I
know that I'm not in control. But the illusion of control is important
for my peace of mind.
My sister, the one at the
University of Michigan Hospital, was always in charge, at work and at
home. People depended on her level-headed, no-nonsense approach. This
time, last year, she was going to movies and out to eat. Visiting with
her nieces and nephews. She was happy. In control. At least, that's
what she believed. Yet, right now, she is beyond making decisions,
telling people what to do.
At one point in Mr. Ives' Christmas, Ives' son, Robert, asks Ives:
"Do you think that if you die just after receiving communion you will absolutely go to heaven?"
is young, impressionable, full of faith in God's goodness. Ives
answers him, "Yes. Without a doubt." Robert is looking for comfort and
assurance, and Ives provides it.
I will be traveling
to Ann Arbor tomorrow to see my sister. I'm going with one of my best
friends (and one of my sister's best friends). My friend offered to
drive me, and I accepted. I know that I'm not in control of my life or
my sister's life. I have to give her over to God. I am simply going to
provide comfort and love and support, like Ives gives to Robert. I
won't be posting again until Saturday. Maybe Sunday.
is fragile, but God's love isn't. Hopefully, I'll be able to help my
sisters who are down there, making the decisions, understand that. It's
time to hand over the reins to the Big Guy in the Sky.
Saint Marty hopes he's doing the right thing.
My Father's Eyes
by: Sharon Olds
The day before my father died
he lay there all day with his eyes open,
staring with a weary dogged look.
His irises had turned hazel in places
as if his nature had changed, bits
of water or sky set into his mineral solids.
Every time he blinked, the powerful
wave of the blink moved through my body
as if God had blinked,
a world unmade in the jump of an eyelid.
They said he was probably not seeing anything,
the material sphere of his eye simply
open to the stuff of the world.
But toward evening he would seem to move
his eyes toward my voice or his wife's voice.
And once, when he got agitated,
reaching out, I leaned down
and he swerved his blurred iris toward me and with-
in it for a moment his pupil narrowed and
took me in, it was my father
looking at me. This lasted just
a second, like the sudden flash
of sex that jumps between two people.
Then his vision sank back down
and left only the globe of the eye, and the
next day the soul went out
and left just my father there
and I thought of that last glint, glint without
warmth or hope, his glint of recognition.