Thursday, July 18, 2013


Last October (2012) I wrote a complicated post that may not have gotten many readers. Perhaps the title “A Different Type of Religious Experience?” did not do it justice. It was a kind of meditation on the life cycle prompted by celebrating a religious holiday in a foreign setting far from family, and it had the surprise ending below.

This post has had a very troubled genesis, and I recognize that I am taking a risk by including it. As I often do, I sent it to a few friends for comment before trying to post it. Usually, they reply, which gives me some reassurance that the piece might be ready for Prime Time. But this time, no one responded, which gave me pause. 

When I asked my husband, another non-responder, about it, he said that because it operates on several levels and contains a letter within it, it might be too complicated. It reminded him of those nested Russian dolls that I cannot resist. And then, as often happens in our remote corner of Umbria, we lost our internet connection for almost two weeks, after which we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of dear friends. Their visit had already been postponed once, due to a health problem. We all thought the time was ripe.

And then we received the kind of message that no one wants to hear:on the eve of their departure, their vigorous, young son-in-law was felled out of the blue by a massive stroke. He would not be inscribed in the Book of Life. And of course our visit will be once again deferred. Maybe next year?


Our friends did not make it this year either, but a part of them did. Their widowed daughter, Jen, the wife of the stroke victim mentioned above, came with her two teenaged children on a European trip. We have a long connection with this young mother, since back in the late 70's, Jim and I used to babysit for her and her two brothers. Jen and her kids took this trip as part of their healing process, and we were glad to be able to do a little something for them. They ended up staying an extra day with us just to chill out and relax after so much traveling.

I talked about writing with the college-bound elder daughter who is already a talented writer and photographer. We bonded while she was making fruit salad for us during which I showed her some of my tricks like adding fresh mint and squeezing the juice out of every melon and pineapple rind.

Her thirteen-year-old brother who is a serious musician amused himself with our son’s mandolin, which had been hungering for some attention. Of the two kids, he seemed more in need of hunkering down.

But as he was heading out the door for the tour of Orvieto, I remarked to him that even though he'd probably rather be playing music at home, I thought that the memory of this family trip would eventually be an important touchstone for him. I probably didn't use that word--maybe I said "a first contact with new things" to which he might add in the future. He may or may not have consciously registered what I was saying, but he was a good sport about everything. 

On the family’s return to Seattle, I wrote Jen to compliment her on having managed all the details of such a big trip, adding:
“You have raised two great kids whom we are glad to know.”

We are still looking forward to having her parents here. And if trouble comes around again, we are putting up our sticker that says “We Already Gave.” 

I hope to maintain at least a writing friendship with Jen's daughter to whom I wrote

"Maybe it's a good time to start a commonplace book of favorite quotes? I am very glad to have done that many years ago--a touchstone that allows me a window into where my head was, and still is. Some things don't change, and some words are for the ages. Those are the ones I try to capture.

You are on the cusp of a lot of life changes, and I am excited for you.--xxx, d"

No comments:

Post a Comment