Falling into PlaceJuly 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Posted in Family, Transylvania | 16 Comments
Tags: Children, Church, Expats, Family, Grief, Life, Personal, Perspectives, Romania
Fort Stockton, Texas.
It’s been a garrison in the flat, dusty West Texas nothingness for 150 years or so, protecting settlers from Indians, Yankees, and wayward steer. I was there once. Back when my husband and I could load one tiny bag in the tiny trunk of his tiny convertible and just go. Anywhere. Any weekend. Because we felt like it.
We stopped for lunch in Fort Stockton on the way to hiking and moon-watching in Big Bend. Over a Nachos Supreme, I nonchalantly said, “So, we might need to get a pregnancy test. I mean, I’m probably not pregnant, but we brought all that wine. So I might need to know if I can drink it. You know, maybe, just in case.”
But my maybes and probably nots didn’t fool either of us. We wanted a baby — and neither of us wanted to hope too much.
We moseyed over to Walmart and bought a two-pack, as casually as if we were buying Doublemint or Doritos. And we drove on, pretending to forget about it. We took one the next morning. Two lines. Two pink lines. The first tangible sign of new life, new beginnings, for us.
Another couple passed through Fort Stockton recently. On their way home from vacation in Colorado. Their two little boys and their daughter sat in the back of their minivan, probably playing Nintendo games or looking for slug bugs. A car going the other way crossed the center median. It smashed into them.
The mom died instantly. The dad died later at the hospital. Both of the boys are paralyzed. Their sister has lots of broken bones.
Their family is broken, too. Where Fort Stockton was the beginning for my family, it’s an ending for this one.
I reflect on all of this 6,000 miles away from that dry, desert cowtown. From my apartment balcony in a foreign city where I’m wearing a sweater in July. Where piles of red cherries decorate the concrete below me, knocked down by the afternoon hailstorm. Where my ears listen keenly for the squeaking sounds of Bun waking.
When he stirs, I load him into the stroller and we walk to the park. We pass the small white church, and I detour into its rose garden. I stand there, letting the sun soak through my clothes as the wind stirs up a faint, flowery sweetness. I notice the doors are open. We tiptoe inside.
The deep blues and oranges in the gold-leaf frescoes zero in on me, on my helplessness and sadness. The congregation chants words my heart needs, even though my brain doesn’t understand them. I feel the simple joy of just being there, of just being.
But I can’t ignore the sickening ache right in my core. Another mother is out of moments like these. Another family is irrevocably altered.
I turn away and slip outside, dropping a few coins in the wooden box by the door for a candle. The wind whips as I try to light it and push it into the sandy stand in the corner of the garden. It blows out. I light it again, and twice more, until I find a spot in the back where the wind can’t reach.
I watch it burn for a while. I say their names out loud, as if making my declaration will soothe their souls, or cement their memories, or heal their children, or something, anything. I stand there until the wind blows Bun’s hat on the ground. Then I put it back on and we walk to the park.
We swing together, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, each lost in our own thoughts. I can’t help but think of the similar momentum of life. Back, forth, up, down, and again, until it stops. Until we stop.
I think of this place I’m in now, an ocean away from that place, the one where life was both celebrated and taken. I promise myself I will keep swinging, keep pushing forward, keep looking up until it’s time to stop, until it’s my time to stop.
I’ll do it for me. And for them.
How do you cope with tragedy? With reminders of your own mortality? How do you keep going, and do you believe it makes you stronger?