Friday, May 25, 2012


After I post this — and after the sun goes down, because Jebus, it's hot out there — I'm going for a walk. A long walk. The goal tonight is three miles, because it's a milestone day in many ways.

Three weeks ago tonight I took the last "normal" walk of my life — two, actually, and both of them were lovely for me. A friend and I walked and talked and eventually found ourselves lying side-by-side on a concrete culvert, staring up at the stars and just being. I hold on to that memory because it's one of the last sane moments I can remember before the madness of May 5 grabbed hold.

Three weeks ago tonight. In a lot of ways it feels like it's been a lifetime, but in most ways it seems very real, like it just happened the other evening.

It's also been precisely a year since I had a lunch with a human being who changed my life, in ways both good and bad. I think back to that meal and marvel at all that has happened in the weeks and months since. Yes, there are days when I want to tear my robe and shave my head, days where I want to tattoo the words to "3 Libras" on my back, days where I wish I would have never shaken the hand that shook up my world.

But there is nothing I can do about any of that, except skip the tattoo and go for the more interesting ink, and hope that we will meet again one day. An acute awareness of mortality makes that hope a very uncertain one — life has a rich and dark sense of twisted humor, as I've recently learned — and that knowledge takes my breath away. Nothing is certain anymore, not even the expected. Vital people go away, other things fill the hole left in the heart — and before you know it, life as we knew it is over. Even the best wishes and intentions are too late. Bitter hands cradle broken glass.

The night before my mother died, I arrived at the hospital in Brookfield. I had just spoken with her on the phone a few hours earlier and she sounded happy, alert. By the time I got to the hospital she was in a deep stupor, her kidneys failing, the cancer making its final victory lap inside her body. I leaned down to kiss her forehead and told her I was there. I think she heard me. But I really can't be sure. She died the next morning without ever regaining consciousness.

The plans are man's. The odds are God's. I think it's an old Asian saying — if it isn't, it should be — and it reverberates inside me tonight. What we think will happen and what happens are usually two distinctly different things. Sometimes that difference heralds great joy: a handshake that changes destiny. Just as often it brings great disappointment: missed opportunities and a lifetime of what-ifs.

I've lived enough what-ifs to fill this lifetime and the next, and yet I'm pretty certain more disappointing moments are still ahead. In my perfect (and simple) world I would grab hold of life's reins and make sure no more time is wasted. Too much of it has already been squandered, too many opportunities have been allowed to pass without action, and I'm sick of the notion that torched connections and burned bridges should light my way forward.

But there is no perfect and simple world. Life can be sometimes ridiculous. So I'm ready to stop wishing and leaving it at that. As I walk tonight I will think of better ways to act. Better ways to live. Better ways to stop wasting time before it's all gone.

Perhaps the answer will be out there, a light in the dark black night. I hope so. My sunken eyes want to learn to see.

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