Of course, I have to keep everything in perspective. I'm healthy. Employed. My kids are healthy and smart. My wife is doing really well after her surgery. My life is pretty blessed.
In comparison to a couple years ago, I would say my life is freakin' amazing . . .
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?"
Robert 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.
Life 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.
And a poem for tonight for my daughter, who seems to be slipping through my fingers like ice melt.
In Praise of Daughters
by: Martin Achatz
Zeus gave birth to Athena himself, from a pain in his deathless temples, ten thousand Greeks pounding the walls of Troy. She charged from his skull, full grown and armored, wailed a war cry louder than the cries of all the mothers who've lost sons in battle. A sound that shook the dust of Olympus. Zeus heard her, saw the bronze on her breasts, watched her flight, up and up, and knew his creation was good, the way Elohim knew light and dark, heaven and earth, sea and mud, man and woman were good on day six.
I saw my daughter charge into the world on a morning of wind and ice. Heard her first sound, a call to battle. For oxygen and milk. Her frog body, slick and red, mapped the contours of my heart, its empty ventricles and auricles. Flooded them. The way the sea flooded the Titanic that April night. I foundered, split, capsized, went under. Swallowed whole by an ocean of daughter. Now, almost eleven years later, I watch her this autumn day. She stands in a cyclone of gold and red. The leaves spin, rise around her, catch her hands and feet and hair, carry her up and up. To the clouds. To the moons. Up and up. To the constellations. Up and up. Cassiopeia. Andromeda. Up and up. Cygnus. Scutum. And up. Virgo. And up. To the arms of Zeus. Of Elohim. Up. Where she sings, dances like an owl-eyed goddess.