Dad rang his bell as my mom, brother, sister and I all sat around the kitchen table, telling stories. I don’t remember why we were all together on that particular day because I have an awful memory, but we were. Dad was in bed resting from his last chemo treatment. We had been in his bedroom until he started dozing off. My family can be particularly loud, so we tiptoed into the kitchen.
What am I saying – we never tiptoed anywhere. We kind of yelled and stormed into the kitchen.
My family has a way of dealing with any situation; we tell funny stories. This artform came from years of being a preacher’s family that moved every three years . . . we learned that we could get through anything with prayer, each other, and humor. We engaged all three, particularly during difficult times of change when some delightful member of our church wanted to kick dad out because he did something like pray too long.
As we were laughing uproariously at my brother’s carnival story, we heard dad’s bell ring from the bedroom accompanied by a hoarse voice yelling, “I have a story to share!”
We all jumped up, left the round oak kitchen table and surrounded his bed with love and anticipation; dad told great stories. I don’t remember the content because I was too busy watching him transform from a patient to my dad – hilarious and animated — a force that was mostly spirit.
That’s why story and I have had a passionate love affair . . .
I spent a lot of time in hospitals when I was a kid. In addition to being incredibly clumsy, I also had a knack for picking up some weird illnesses that nobody could define. My appendix burst, my tonsils grew weird stuff, and I had five bouts of pneumonia and five concussions before the age of nine. Apparently I was all about the fives.
I’d love to say this all happened because I was destined to be a Shaman, but I’m pretty sure these events occurred because I never paid attention to where I was or what I was doing.
You know what got me through those times alone at such a young age?
I was never alone when accompanied by Pippi on the high seas, or Jo, Amy, Meg and Beth, or Laura Ingalls Wilder in her little house in the big woods and on the prairie. It was like time travel. I was transmitted from the inside of my house or hospital to some exciting place with interesting friends.
Some people love Nordstrom’s, but my favorite outing was going to the library, where I was fascinated by everything from the plastic book covers, to the smell of paper, to the stamp of the return date, to my library card. I loved it all.
We are authors, not characters . . .
I lived too many years believing that life was what happened to me. I spent a lot of time sighing and lamenting rather than proactively living. I found routines and ruts that got so deep I lost the light.
Then I found out my husband was ill and needed me. I rediscovered the power of writing and creating my own journey. Wings appeared on my car and ravens landed in places when I needed them most. Now I know why I’m here, and no matter what the financial situation, my husband and I are making a remarkable journey together.
It’s a challenging story, but a weirdly wonderful one. And it beats the crap out of my comfort zone.
I know there will still be days with lots of gnashing of teeth, but I will continue to write my daily chapters and look for the patterns and purpose. Because I began to find them in my grief.
And my wish for all of us is . . .
We are each on our own journey, and only we can write the story. But I hope parts of it are so exciting that you ring your bell and say, “Hey, I have a story to share!”