“Where’s my cell phone? Have you seen my cell phone?”
He looked at me with vague recognition as he gripped the edges of the overbed table and turned his torso with effort.
“Don’t strain,” I said, “I’ll help you find it.”
I searched through the nightstand and standard issue bedspread, reeking of bleach and staleness and under a chair. And as I brought my head back up from the floor to meet his, it dawned on him.
With folded arms he turned away.
He didn’t want me there. I knew he didn’t want me there, but I went anyway. When you get a call like that, you go. When you get a call like that, you put thirty years on the shelf and you unzip your heart and you throw your kids at neighbors and you run through airports and you pray that you make it on time and you come to understand in a fleeting, humbling way how much value there is in one day.
Despite my hurts, I was aware enough to see through a stubborn old man who created a story that looked much different than mine. We all create stories, to protect ourselves, to live with ourselves, sometimes to prevent ourselves from growing close to those we love the most. Because loving like that can be scary. Except we humans, we forget. Love never killed anyone. It’s fear that’s the real mortal enemy.
Eventually, he softened. I helped him put on his socks, I held his drink for him. I told him about the brilliant run I had the morning before at the reservoir near my house. “That’s a great place to run,” he said in quiet recollection.
Slowly, the room that first seemed crowded from all of our mistakes felt lighter. Because when we let 30 years of fear and anger slip away, there’s room to let the light in.
I sat there and wondered how much those 30 years cost me. Because anger always costs us. Anger lives in our bodies, you know. It lives in every cell, along with fear and love and old hurts and anxiety and uncertainty. Pantanjali knew that. 2,500 years later, Candace Pert proved it. I sat there and wondered how long and how much it would take to extract anger from 100 trillion cells.
I sat there and wondered what I’d have space for in those cells once I got rid of that anger and the righteousness and the hurt from the unmet expectations once and for all.
I vowed that this was the day I would let it go. And if he lived, I resolved to make things different. I would call. I would visit. I would bring the kids for week long sleepovers where we’d crash on air mattresses in the guest room. I told him that next year, when he was better, we’d go to Disneyworld together.
I committed to never again allowing anything to get in the way of us knowing each other. If I could put thirty years on the shelf for one day, I could do it for another day and yet another, until the days were weeks and the weeks were years and until I was no longer weighed down by those 100 trillion cells because I would let the light in.
And finally, after thirty years, I felt the light coming into those cells. I felt the light coming in as the orderly wheeled out the monitors, as I overheard his wife making phone calls to the family, as I stood over him and kissed his forehead that had grown cool.
I was ready.
I think he would have been ready too.
I would have asked him, had we had another day.
What has fear and anger cost you?
This post was inspired by the lovely Tricia from Raising Humans and her absolutely stunning post entitled These Days One More, which encapsulates in the most beautiful way the true value of one day. This post is definitely worth your read and your vote for BlogHer VOTY.