Sunday, April 10, 2011

bitter droughts and fond farewells

Clay is outside teaching Kay K. how to play baseball. Today is Clay’s last day. 

“Did you ever think it would end up like this?” I ask the woman in the mirror looking so tired and frumpy she can’t figure out what end of the hair brush to use. “The good, the bad, the ugly, until death do us part. That’s what we said right?” That’s what we meant anyway. My book is over half way finished. Will it be enough? Aunt P in Dallas says there’s a job for sure. But he’ll need a car and then there’s rent to consider. I’m afraid he won’t be able to send anything home. I don’t need much but a cushion would help. Aunt P is a better help than his family was letting him sit and stew alone in the guest room where half his stuff remains. “Through thick and thin? Or was it sickness and health?” I can’t remember my vows anymore, so many lay broken pieced back together with tears and determination. Broken hearts are useless things so despite the cracks and holes I patch mine up again after each tiny betrayal and hope things get better. They do. The sun shines again. The weather is fine if dry. The Earth is like my soul flourishing even though the sky with holds the Rain. It isn’t doing it on purpose. The conditions just aren’t right. That’s all. Trees birth leaves, birds sing, there must be Water somewhere. I see it in his eyes knowing he has to say good bye. Not knowing when, if ever, he’ll be back. This is not sad, not heart rending, this is exhaustion. The struggle is too much and the gargantuan efforts are not enough. We pass the time with books we think we want to read, movies we think we want to see but even the stories have turned to Dust. Everything is so Dry. The dirt, the sky, the air, my mouth, my heart. It is a Paper world we are living in. That sound the wind makes isn’t the throaty howl of storm or the whisper of Life, of God. No, it is the dry rasp of Paper.  Paper is what we lack. “What is needed for life in this world is Paper,” they say but then they say you have too much Paper and we cannot give you life at all. What little we have is too much and we do not Qualify. The Paper is green like Life and it purchases all the trappings of Life. It is not Life and gives not Life. What the earth needs is Water. I remember the storms of childhood. Rain, like the kisses of the Father, splashing all over my child-face as I giggle and twirl, soak my clothes and drip from my hair and my cup runs over with it. Now in the Drought both inside and out I hear the Storm far off in the distance like the siren call of some exotic bird, harsh and beautiful. There is a longing I cannot escape or explain. It writhes Fierce and fiery inside my heart. It cannot be tamed, only quenched but there is no Water. 

I look again in the mirror and see the face looking back at me. Was there beauty at one time? I was told once that there was but I cannot see it. A friend said my beauty rivaled Princess Leia once. Perhaps in the turn of the head or the twist of the neck there hangs a grace long disused? The woman I look at has long suffered this Drought and as much as it showed through in youth now it is worn in ever crease of her face and every hair of her head. “When will it end?” she asks. “I don’t know.” I answer. “But hear the Storm? It is coming.” We know there will be relief soon but our strength, sinewy and tough, is Drying up in this environment of Want. Still the thrill of the Storm prickles across the skin like electricity. “God will bring you plenty” says the preacher from the screen. He speaks true. I’ve seen miracles of plenty dropped from the sky or raised out of the ground like manna. It is coming soon.

Kay’s ball rolls into the street she stands on the lawn her hands to her cheeks. “Oh no!” she frets. Clay walks out to get it, holding her hand. She darts after it and back to the safety of the Dry withered grass. Her bones are his, long and thin. Her muscles, like mine, form shape and content and substance. Shape and height perfectly melded together in harmony to create such a tough yet delicate little child. I see her growth but what of her heart? Did we take enough care with it? Did we teach her to endure? Will she be able to avoid the pitfalls we tread so readily into? Never was I so frightened as the day I had to shove her out into the world with nothing between her and it. No longer can I stand between her and this world, a shield of flesh and blood, a cage of iron-like bone. I touch her face and brush her hair and wonder what wounds she will have to live through, what scars she will have to carry. My Petal is no longer protected. Neither can I protect Clay from his past, from the hurts that fester under the surface. Time has come for him. 

Tomorrow I will have to remind Kay to say goodbye. “Daddy is leaving today, remember?” Remember. Remember the hurt you must face today, for face it you must. Don’t cry or you’ll miss it. Don’t laugh because it isn’t funny. Face it head on for face it we must. I can’t cry because I can’t afford to lose the Water in this drought. 

Daddy gives her last bath. Daddy reads to her the last story. Daddy tells her I love you one more time. I cannot afford to feel this. I watch as though through glass. I hold her little frame to me and tell her things are fine. She knows he needs to work. She knows work is good. These happenings shape her view of the world. I have no control over these happenings. They speed by and I try to give her some perspective like films over a lens to change the color. I try to explain without scaring her. She is not afraid. I am. I see the dwindling resources, the time flying by. I shop at small dollar places to cheapen our expenses. I know what to buy here and buy there and I know which route takes the least amount of time and which the least amount of gas. There is so much to buy for a household, for the three… for the two of us. This Drought demands more of us than we can give, more than we have.

Yet we give more. 

Yet we trudge on.

Breathe. 

The Rain is coming.

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