With fists, with words, with kindness
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When we went back outside, Tom had stopped sawing and was repotting the bare vine. “You never know,” he said. He’s right, of course. We don’t know what the world will bring, what power lies in a salvaged tomato plant, what we all do to build back, survive, thrive.
I couldn’t see the loaves in her oven, but I could smell them. They smelled like the perfect weight of blankets on a winter night; like the loving and attentive parents I thought I deserved; like the solution to every natty problem that might crop up in life.
I was unable to protect my children from heartache. I couldn’t keep them from the pain of it. But I could ease their journey by helping them light their dead hamster’s funeral pyre.
When did the distance from the bed to here become twenty-six miles? That pair of pants I stepped over, you see that? Goddamn Everest that was.
Some of us have faced devastating losses of jobs or homes or family members, and some of us have more time to take up hobbies and house projects. Some of us pop our trunks open, and some of us fill them.
They take turns at the feeders, but if one lingers too long, the others — usually males — will jabber insults until the offender leaves. I have a secret nickname for the house sparrows: Little A-holes.
I’m sick of being defined by the prison experience and long to be a normal human being with a past that doesn’t need to be discussed.
“Imagine if we’d known,” I said. “If you’d had a diagnosis, you could have been given lithium or something to help you.” Joan lifted her hands to her face and sobbed.
After work we would be headed to Smitty’s Bar, where the twangy music would kick up, and I’d try to find the courage to dance in public.
When you have been through something terrible, and you know deep down the outcome could have been otherwise, you develop a strange gratitude for everyday life. The smallest acts of generosity can make you cry.