Saturday, July 28, 2012
He held the sign slightly askew. It read: Jesus Saves The Hungry. Please help. As I drove by, he danced lightly back and forth on the sidewalk as if he had to pee, a disheveled Mr. Bojangles with a painful smile across his face like a stained crease.
Somewhere deep inside my tired heart, I heard the music, but then it was gone and all I could think about was will Jesus save my parents?
I didn't hold my breath and I wasn't angry or resentful. I only drove back from the store to my parents' sweet little home here in Oregon, to continue to figure it all out with my sister.
Our father is dying, the surreality of that painfully clear now that we're here, his body shifting and slipping away to cancer like a Dali painting sitting out in the hot sun. The chemotherapy is most likely to be discontinued, with hospice to be brought in. Our mother, chronically ill with endless pain for decades, is desperately fearful she'll lose him soon; we all are. Time is that selfish friend who prefers to hang with the fun kids, not the sick or the old or the misfits. But at least our parents renewed their marriage vows two weeks ago, which is something they wanted to do for the last few years.
Of all the emotional dysfunction that can plague even the best of families, ours has thankfully fallen away for now like chunks of ice from a melting glacier, the global warming of our hearts uniting a family that once was: Mom, Dad, Sister and Brother.
When we were scared as children, they held us close. When we were sick, they cleaned us up and told us they loved us, that it would all be okay. Now our folks are the ones who are scared and sick, and so we reciprocate with love and respect. Our children will hopefully do the same for us, just as their children will do the same for them.
This is why the Mama and I made the decision last year and this year to visit family with Beatrice and Bryce, to immerse them in our collective stories, of past and present, from my family in the West to the Mama's on the Mississippi, and as many other visits in between we could and can still muster, "God willing and the creek don't rise" as my father always says.
My girls aren't here with me now. I miss them and the Mama terribly. I miss holding them close and telling them I love them.
But right now I must hold my parents close and tell them everything will be okay. Jesus saves the hungry, Mom. We're here to help.
Mr. Bojangles, dance.
"The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect -- so hard to earn, so easily burned. In the fullness of time, a garden to nurture and protect. The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect -- the way you live, the gifts that you give. And the fullness of time is the only return that you expect."