Friday, April 24, 2015

Absence is the Reward

It’s 2031, and the house is letting out a sigh.  We’ve been halved by time, with just the older half left here to think and remember.  Morgan and his dorm room seemed made for each other.  Taylor was so happy to drive him there.
“They’re gone,” I half-whisper to Sarah.
“Yes,” she replies, admitting it, but barely.
“I’ve waited for this day for 18 years.  Getting my freedom back, I called it.”
“I remember.”
“It really is freedom, in a way.  From this point on, their choices are completely their own.”
“They always were completely their own.”
“No different from us, I suppose.  I keep thinking about something I told you before we got married.  I used to say, ‘I’m not wired to parent a kid with a disability.  I don’t have that kind of patience.  I want you to understand that from the beginning.’”
“You did say that.  Irony’s a bitch, isn’t it?”
“Yes.  The universe could have at least been up front about it.  Bi-polar was a cruel way to sneak up on us.  Everything was flowers and laughs and hugs, until it wasn’t.”
“Nobody expects the inquisition. Or a mood disorder.”
“She was just so…cruel.  How can a person be expected to be emotionally attached to someone who says they hate them all the time?  It’s best dad on earth in the morning, worst dad at night.”
“I don’t have an answer for you.”
“For many years I tried to focus on two things.  One, she didn’t choose it.  To be born, to have the disease, any of it. And two, my response to it was nobody’s responsibility but my own. I didn’t choose the disease either, but I did choose to bring her into this world.  The fallout from that decision wasn’t my choice either, but how I dealt with it was only my choice. Do you think I dealt with it well?”
“Do you?”

“I don’t know.  But I worry about it all the time.  Every child deserves happy memories.  I hope I gave her enough.”
It’s 2015, and things are looking up.
As a kid, as much as the video games an TV shows were often the highlight of the day, it was the friendships and adventures that stick to my memory. Building a triangular fort out of tongue and groove boards in the back yard, hiding under the ivy behind the school, throwing my bike off a retaining wall just to see what would happen when it crashed. We didn’t have the internet then, of course.  In hindsight, would it have made life better?  These days I doubt it.
I’m trying to come out of the fog I’ve been in for the last six months.  Shutting down the online chatter has been an unexpected joy.  With the noise gone, my mind centers on simpler things.  The people I want to talk to, I talk to, and in person.  The causes of so much pain are gone with a simple button click.  Why was it so hard to realize it would work that way? 
I do a lot of walking these days.  The neighborhoods by the office are quiet, with enough turns and hills to make it interesting, and enough shade to be merciful when the sun is shining.  On my walks, the schools are full of kids too young to be bogged down by phones and apps.  They run around without a care, pushing each other on swings, choosing friends based on kindness and cooperation rather than opinions about social issues.  We could learn from these kids.

I’ve been running the facets of my life past a simple question: is this person, group, church, job, website – are they making me happy?  And if not, why are they part of my life?  Who decided it was acceptable to surround one’s self with things that make life worse?  It’s a simple litmus test, but the answers can be difficult.  Some of these burdens have been around a long time.  To live without them seems foreign.  But as I’m learning, sometimes the hardest part is the separating.  The absence is the reward.