Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, April 14, 2010
I had it all planned out.
The boy would be in California for spring break with his dad, and I’d have a huge block of uninterrupted time to get things done. The house was going to sparkle, bathrooms would be scrubbed, floors that hadn’t seen a vacuum in months (that’s right), were going to be sucked free from impacted filth. I would be a cleaning machine and I had the box of latex gloves to prove it.
In addition to my sanitation frenzy, there would be daily fitness boot camp, baking projects, starting a class I’ve always wanted to take, and ridding our home of things we haven’t touched or even seen since 2002.
It was Friday, the day my son left, that I felt it coming on. But I plowed through the physical discomfort brewing inside of me because, well, how many times does a mom get the chance to be absolutely alone in her own home for one week?
By Monday I sensed something was wrong. It was an old problem, I knew the symptoms, but I fought it. On Tuesday it became serious. I had to call my doctor.
One week earlier, I would’ve had insurance coverage, but it ended on March 31st. Denying my body would be foolish, not to mention dangerous. I bit the proverbial bullet and made the call.
Myriad tests and hours later proved what I thought. The old situation was back and hospitalization was the recommended course of action.
I begged the doctor. “I’ll do whatever I have to, just don’t put me in the hospital with no insurance.”
The nature of the malady made this a fairly easy decision. While it was serious, it wasn’t potentially life threatening. I could be at home, but must visit the hospital twice daily for injections to quell inflammation and make sure I was healing. I agreed.
Before my son arrived home the following Friday, I’d barely loaded the dishwasher once. My classes—cancelled. The floors were still encrusted with the unthinkable. My aching frame was slightly better, but my spirit flagged from what I considered a wasted week.
My new, latex cleaning gloves remained untouched.
I had, however, laid in bed and watched a boatload of Law & Order Special Victims Unit.
My regrets tumbled out when he got home. So much I wanted to do and so little that got done. He gave me a hug and said, “I don’t care.” I made him Texas brownies, his favorite, and that took all the energy I had.
I started to think about projects undone, why things happen the way they do, how to deal with ugly medical bills, unemployment, and the number of us who share these problems right now. And I remembered something I’d read recently.
It’s about a Chinese farmer and his only son. Episcopal priest, A. Philip Parham tells it like this:
“One night the old man’s horse escaped, and the neighbors came to comfort him in his loss. He said, ‘How do you know this is bad luck?’
Several days later, his horse returned with a herd of wild horses. Now his friends congratulated the farmer for his good fortune, but the old man said, ‘How do you know this is a good thing?’
His son broke his leg trying to tame one of the wild horses. Again the neighbors gathered, this time to bemoan this new misfortune. ‘How do you know this is ill fortune?’ asked the old man.
Soon a warlord came to recruit able-bodied youth for his army, and the farmer’s son escaped conscription because of his broken leg. In true fashion, the farmer’s friends expressed their pleasure over such good luck.
Here the story ends, but it could go on forever.”
I don’t go gently with the flow of life. Most of us want it to be on our terms and we stomp around like defiant toddlers when it’s not.
Rather than label circumstances as fortunes and misfortunes, we can learn from the Chinese farmer, accept patiently, and move forward willingly.
Easy? Not so much. But trusting that I know all I need to at the moment beats fear’s icy grip any day.