Living in the Nuances
Rare is the day when I do not pause, stare intently at a moment to memorize the details, and tell myself please let this mental snapshot stand the test of time so that it might sustain me when the real moments are no longer within reach, no longer within a phone call, no longer available. …To live in the nuances well enough to remember them later. You don’t have to be faced with the grave and the grim to recognize how beautiful life is, to love your family so deeply it hurts, to treasure sharing space and time like it’s a well kept secret, to be wise enough not to take it all for granted. I hope we all appreciate life even when time isn’t so obviously precious. But when a moment of diagnosis somehow so selfishly dictates moments to come, the nuances of life scream at you to pay attention.
I often close my eyes and see my mom, sitting on the edge of her new bed. It was last winter and she was getting ready to turn in for the night. She had no idea I was at her doorway (sounds kind of creepy but I had just helped with something and was on my way out, but thought I had forgotten an item so double backed). I stopped at the door to appreciate the image. A dimly lit bedside table cast a soft, yellowish glow on her small frame, which was covered from head to toe in light blue, long sleeve jammies. She sat so peacefully, her big brown eyes gazing down as she adjusted her apnea apparatus; her short hair sticking up in the back. This eloquent moment—graceful, soft, and gentle—so defiantly contradicted the harshness of her cancer. I stood there and smiled at her elegance and beauty, and actively ‘freeze framed’ it for future recall.
I also recall a time when Diane and I picked Craig up from the airport. True to form, we walked toward each other in a slow saunter, smacking our lips and saying “well, well, well…look what the cat drug in” followed by a big hug. We went out to eat before heading home, and all the while we were CRACKING Craig up, with Craig displaying all the familiar signs of laughter – flared nostrils, Franken-veins popping out of his forehead, and furrowed eyes as he squinted at the nonsense (or horror) of our humor. He said “don’t make me laugh, laughing makes my stomach hurt” but we kept at it. We’d later learn the source of his stomach pain.
And now, I sit in his hospital room memorizing how his hair looks. It’s sticking up on the sides like it did during an active swim season or just after taking a nap. His clean shaved face makes him look 16. His hands resemble mine, in a way. We’re cut from the same cloth and the details show.
It’s those moments you appreciate and cling to, like when you can look over and see Craig staring up at the TV, laughing periodically…or catching our mom smiling at her favorite Law and Order program…the way Craig slowly frees his hand from the covers to hold Emily’s hand…or hearing our mom say ‘goodnight sweetheart’ and do her bird flappy hug (where she flaps her outstretched hands ready for a hug, which is mandatory before going to bed or when saying goodbye)…or Craig’s many teachable moments for harmonica when he plays, then pauses to tell us how or what he’s playing…how beautiful and cute our mom looks when we wake her up in the morning (the yawns, the tired mmm hmmms and uh uhhhs that replace yes’ and no’s)…or the way Craig’s sleepy eyes look when he does a head count of those in the room, and then asks where ‘so and so’ went when one is missing.
I’m grateful I’m here to live among the nuances — to capture the moments, and build a memory upon them.
…and there are so many more moments to come. — E
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