Tuesday, March 28, 2023

What is the point? The point of TODAY.

 Do you ever wonder what the point of life is? Well, I do--especially yesterday. 

After first being diagnosed, I thought, "If I can just make it until all of my kids are adults." That seemed impossible, like sailing to the moon. My youngest daughter cried after initially hearing the news. That momentarily shattered my sensibilities, my dreams, and even my resolve. Just seeing my 10-year-old crying because of my own mortality--something so out of my control--THAT nearly broke me.

Yet, now she's 13, Trey is 14, Sky's 18, and Ruby's 21. And as the months and years have progressed, my terminal illness has become more of a nuisance than an overwhelming worry. Some days I spend unable to keep anything down. I'll suffer from a fever, physical pains from tumors, or even sadness from lost abilities, but I do my best to not let any of this affect my family. I cry in the closet. I shield them from my own pain. And I throw up as quietly as humanly possible, which in hindsight might look funny to God...if He's even watching.   

But yesterday, I felt especially ill. I huddled on the couch in the fetal position, alone. Ruby is busy building a career, which makes me so proud. People have now come from across the world to have her tattoo them. She's booked out until November! Sky is getting ready for the summer semester of school. She's brilliant and usually busy studying her latest fascination in Ruby's room, which the two of them share even though Sky has her own room (such unlikely best friends!). Trey plays the guitar after school, every second of every day. He's even teaching other kids how to play instruments now. And Indy reads Manga to her cat, Nova. I'll hear her giggling in her "tent" (an odd assortment of haphazard blankets). "Then, she rushed after him, not wanting him to ever leave. Oh no, Nova! This is getting soooo good." 

I'm grateful they are content and happy. But Mike works afternoons and nights, and yesterday, I felt alone, wondering what the point is. I'm a bit like Mary Poppins. It's not time to unfurl my umbrella and float away yet, but I have taken steps to prepare my kids. And I do need to take solace in the fact that I'm raising strong individuals who will be all right, even without me. 

Yet, sometimes I find myself wanting to hold them every minute because, although others have become inured to my illness, I'm always aware of my expiration date. Would YOU like to know the approximate date of your death? It's not as easy as it sounds. And as I've written before, it does feel like being tied to the tracks, just waiting for the train.

I pulled the fluffy blanket around myself, listening to Trey's guitar and Indy's story as she read to her kitty. That's when someone knocked on the door.

"Are you kidding?" I whispered, sliding a hand across my willful hair and straightening my shirt.

"Elisa," the phantom said after stepping into our entryway.

"You... But you just had surgery," I stammered.

"I needed to get out of my house." He'd driven with an injured hand all the way to my home from Blackfoot--in a blizzard.

Indy and Trey bounded from their rooms, so excited to see the Phantom. Indy gave him a huge hug, right around his waist, and he grinned. "How old are you anyway?" Indy asked. "I forgot to ask on your birthday."

"Well," he said, sitting down at our kitchen table, "how many keys are there on a piano?"

"With the black and white ones?" She paused to think. "67?"

"You're a real charmer!" He chuckled. "67?! Ha! I wish. There are 88 keys."

"You're 88 years old?" Trey's eyes bulged. "That's...wow. I had no idea."  

The kids went back to their rooms shortly after, and I just had to laugh.

So, the phantom and I talked about all sorts of things. I asked him if he could repeat any five-year period of his life, what it would be. He picked 35-40 because he'd "finally figured some things out about life." We played a game called Worst Case Scenario, and the Phantom picked "taking a vow of silence" as his worst situation, even compared to wrestling a crocodile! Then, the conversation changed from beautiful memories of fishing, working, and raising kids, to his worries about aging. "I know my days are numbered. I guess some of your feelings mirror mine," he said. "It's hard knowing your time is coming sooner rather than later."
I nodded. 

"But I have to do things that give my days meaning. I might not know what the point of life is, but I know what I wanted the point of TODAY to be."

Those words hit me, almost knocking me off my proverbial feet.

"What was that? The point of today?"

"To see all of you," he said. "Just to have a great conversation. To keep living even if it was difficult to get here. Some days aren't easy, and we have to put in the effort."

I felt so touched. The kids and I had been someone's "point of the day." That felt wonderful.  

Trey and Indy finally told the Phantom goodbye. I gave him a hug before he could walk out the door. He's become like family to us, and I normally just give him an awkward side hug, wanting him to know that he matters. But this time, he gave me the biggest hug and held my head against his chest. "You're getting so thin," his voice quivered with emotion. "We just..." He inhaled, shakily. "All of us want you to get better. That's all I want." He wiped his weathered eyes and held my wrist with his good hand. "Just take care of yourself, kid. And remember to give each day meaning as it comes."

He drove off, disappearing into gusts of snow as they billowed across the Idaho roads. And I still don't know why his words and that hug impacted me the way they did. I'll never understand how certain people have come into my life.

Our world is such a mystery. Right when we think we're lost, a phantom might battle through a snowstorm simply to show us the way. 

I'll never forget his kindness yesterday or those poignant words: I might not know what the point of life is, but I know what I wanted the point of TODAY to be... 

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