[A few days separate then and now.]
The things we do.
Last night I did something that we hope we never have to so, but something that many times I have thought necessary and, even so, a step I have never taken. Until last night. I called 911 for an ambulance after a frightening afternoon with a sick adult, an adult who has often been sick but never this way. I called for an ambulance, and then I moved everything out of the way so that they could get in. In the minutes after being on hold and then explaining the situation to the dispatcher, I scrambled around the room trying to clear a path between the door and the suddenly dangerously narrow hallway. I moved two baskets of clean but unfolded laundry. I moved the bin of library books. i moved backpacks and shoes. I moved the couch. It felt oddly like cleaning up for a house cleaner to come in. And then there were eight or nine men filing the house, asking questions, taking over. It was not like on TV. It wasn’t overly friendly or reassuring. And then they were gone, tape and packaging remnants scattered throughout the hallway.
There was a stillness in the house, though I could hear the sounds of the ambulance still on the street for another ten minutes or more. And there was the weight of all of it, of two kids watching it happen, of a hole in the hallway wall that I put packing tape over because the kids were as afraid that something might come through the wall as they were by the fact that the hole was caused by someone falling and hitting the wall with a head. There was weight all around us, pressing in, and yet for those who are left behind to wait, the hours move on. We finished the show we had been watching, the three of us, said goodbye to the lost hour of the time change, read at bedtime as we always do.
Later, when I could not sleep, I played through my scrabble games and then endless rounds of solitaire in between calls from the ER and then, later, the ICU. The weight of everything, all the implications, realities, worries, and more, kept me company through the night as I tried to figure out how to walk the next steps.
The next morning after coffee, the stillness within me sat like lead. With no one to call for help juggling the kids, I waited. I did my regular things, regular morning things, regular Sunday things, regular parenting things, all with an ear to the silent phone, all while mentally planning how to fit Sunday necessities into an amorphous day of waiting.
I looked at the list of daily drawing prompts and contemplated a piece of clothing to draw. It’s a drawing prompt I’ve been tasked with before, and it is always one I find difficult. But “a piece of clothing” was the prompt ahead of me, so getting back “in” to the rhythm and the sketchbook meant starting there even though, in truth, I am going to skip several of the ones coming up. A piece of clothing. I considered a scarf. Simple pattern. But interesting. And then I spotted a sweater, a sweater that has lived a life of its own. I have two of the same sweater in different colors, each more than 15 years old, each seriously oversized, even in all the sizes I’ve been then and now. I wear them now in the mornings when it is cold, or late at night. Each is a silky soft chenille on the back, collar, and cuffs with a smooth front that is soft but not chenille at all. Though they’ve never been exposed to moths and are not wool in nature, the chenille has a worn appearance, a see-through quality when you hold it up to the light, as if sections are being somehow washed away. These are seriously old sweaters. They are not sentimental. They are simply cozy.
I picked one up, tried to drape it here and there so I could get some angle on it. Mostly I was unsuccessful, but finally I left it over the arm of a large loveseat and sat down to fill a page. And I did.
Later, I sat and searched for new (to me) podcasts and stocked my phone with a playlist of shows I have not tried before. I scrolled through the few people I follow at Facebook and flipped over and read an essay that appeared on a “weekend list” Ali Edwards had linked to from her blog, a piece written to (and in defense of) a parent on a phone. I read just enough to find it brought me to tears, tears I was woodenly keeping at bay. I clipped it to Evernote and put it aside for later. It is a beautiful piece and a reminder that what you think you see may or may not be the while story. So often these days I see the insular way in which people draw boundaries and make interpretations. It is a good piece to read, whether your phone is a lifeline for a hundred reasons or not. I went back a day later and read it all the way through. I know none of the people the author knows, and yet I am many of them.
When I left the computer, still waiting, I stood in front of a pile of fabric. I cut some pieces. I sewed a few seams. I looked at the almost finished piece marking last year, and yet I filled my head and hands with pieces for this year’s project, one defined but not yet begun. I waited, and I worked on something new. And I stopped at one point and pondered the role of the process, the normalcy and calm of the act of creating in such moments when, really, one’s hands are tied.
Today, a few days since… I read another post on “story,” on the telling of story, the crafting of story, on finding and identifying and following story. These are all things I have been thinking about in recent days, weeks, and months. Sometimes the story is in the subtext, another layer to a main story, an aside, something in the wings and waiting or while waiting. And always we pick and choose which parts to tell, which parts to weave together. Which parts to let stand alone, to let break a rule of grammar for a turn of phrase or a pause. Sometimes our stories are interwoven with others, sometimes connected to things past, things present, and things yet unknown. And always, always, there are more stories than we can really share, read, tell, and comprehend. But stories help us understand, survive, and better know ourselves and others. Over the last few days, I’ve paused in the midst of other things many times realizing I need to sit, with myself, and get down the bare bones of several stories, stories upon which I want to build, stories with details I do not want to lose and wonder about later. I’ve been telling myself that for months, over and over, as I run around with too many things on my plate, the fine lines of some stories fading fast. This post, in reality, was spawned by the moment of stopping and realizing that in the midst of a bad day, I turned, instinctively, to a pile of fabric. But in writing that reality, the nature of story rises to the surface.