The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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The air is still. The governor is on the radio: “This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history.” I start vacuuming. It’s not until Amy gets home an hour later that we begin to outline what needs to be done: We need cat carriers to transport the cats. We need provisions for the animals. We need our medications. I am demonstrating how much we need our medications.
She read a brief passage in a small, clear voice that will live on in my memory. Fluent in sounding out words she didn’t know, she gleaned tones from everyday verbs that I’d never dreamed they possessed, and conferred a strange new life on faded old nouns, as one might draw a hidden thread of some brilliant color from an old rug.
A few times a year, especially in spring, one of my cats clambers through the flap in the door carrying some fresh dilemma for me.
To say that the Trump years have taken their toll on our already strained relationship would fall woefully short. It’s like a natural disaster has hit, and I have to keep updating my homeowner’s-insurance claim every time I find more damage.
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.
“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.