Here are a few coherent scraps from my journal. This is a lazy way to write, but it’s all I have for now. I have heard from more of you, my readers, folks I’ve never even met, lately, than ever before. You’ve told me in many ways to not be afraid but simply write what I’ve known and share it. So here I come, having been called for, and I thank you.
The last time we went to Dairy Queen was in February. The newscasters on the TV were on about already failed New Year’s resolutions. I asked him if he made any. No, not this year. This was not because of his age— this man learned to read Greek and Hebrew, to spin wooden bowls and play the piano, all late into his retirement. It was because he’d lost her, and he couldn’t bring himself to get excited about anything. Her funeral was the finest I’ve ever seen. It’s a noble thing to say in lieu of flowers make a donation, but there is nothing wrong in saying bring all the flowers, spend all you’ve got. Ten thousand pink roses we will lay at her feet and it will not be enough. Send them anyway.
“Have you?” He asked, “made any resolutions?”
“No,” I said, “But… I don’t know…. but… but this may be the year I get married.”
He looked up and wiped his mouth.
“I can remember the exact moment and place when I had that thought,” he said, and he smiled that silly smile I’d been smiling myself.
“Alice would’ve loved this,” he said. I could see he was loving it too. Was he loving it on his own, or was it the thought of her loving it? After sixty-five years of marriage, who could separate the one from the other?
I saw him today for the first time in many months.
“Well,” he said, “we survived.” He held my left hand and looked at it. “Tell me, what is his name? But first I will sit down. I am sheltering in place.”
While I was driving, I asked her for marriage advice, repeating the question many times and pointing to my engagement ring.
She scoffed. “Marriage advice? Why would I need marriage advice? Ha!”
“No, Nana,” I said, “for me! Advice for me,” pointing to my chest, “from you”, to hers.
“Oh! You want my advice?” And she laughed as if that was just as utterly ridiculous.
“Well be good to each other. Help each other, you know; let him help you, help him. Go to church together… Well what did everyone else tell you?”
“You’re the first person I’ve asked.”
“Oh really?” She liked that and with new authority she added: “When you go for a walk, he should go with you.”
She always did worry about my walks.
“Yeah, I like him a lot. And you know what else,” she went on, “he’s real good lookin’.”
She had made this observation before about various men and I always found it extremely irrelevant, but this time it came down like the stone tablets for the chosen people and I, stopping reverently at a light, said, “Praise the Lord!”
The baby was born last night. He’s a beautiful child, dark and delicate. I must write down the details of the labor progress for the paperwork, but I know it will look so insufficient on the form. They will ask with every entry for the mother’s reaction. If I tell the truth they won’t believe me. Laughing, smiling, soft to the touch the whole time. How will she remember this? Like a dream, I expect, that she only hoped to live, that perhaps she lived because she hoped to dream it.
We walked through the peach field together early in the evening. We used to skip lunch in middle school and walk around in circles on the pavement, aimless, silly. We are still silly, but not aimless. We have not received an aimless grace. His mercy hit us squarely, overwhelmingly, like the whirlwind of Job. Perhaps we did not grow up to be great women, but we are happy women, which was really all we wanted. Her third child was coming gently and peacefully. They had named him Shepherd. “It’s like a blind date,” she said walking, “He’s coming to stay, and I have no idea who he is.”
In January I wrote the word Eucatastrophe down on a scrap of paper and propped it up on my desk. A sudden turn of good events, it means, which ensures the protagonist does not meet some very probable doom. It was with barely a mustard seed of belief that I wrote it down. Really I just liked the way it looked on paper. I didn’t name it and claim it. I didn’t presume to pray for it. I was, in fact, avoiding it personally.
She held his skin to hers and cut the cord connecting their bodies. She kissed his face. She recognized him as not her own, as a gift she did not deserve and could not grasp, as a man who might up and join the war some day. She recognized him as her own, as that same man, at last, come home to rest. We laugh that it’s a good thing we can’t remember being born, but perhaps we do— every time we wonder if we’ll be accepted, every time we’re relieved to be loved.
How will she remember this? I think she will tell her grandchildren about it and they will think the story grew in the telling. They will ask their grandfather and he will say, “All that is true and there was pizza too.” They may ask me and I will say, “Shepherd was a beautiful baby, born on a magical night in a log cabin in a peach field in the year the world fell to pieces. The year I was outrageously happy. The year of Eucatastrophe.” Perhaps I will write the word down on a slip of paper with my shaky hand and it will sit on some desk to look down on the unsuspecting world.