Just read over my post from last Easter. Bright, sunny, warm and full of gratitude and optimism it was. Full of hope for the future. Hmph. This morning marks day three of my tummy not feeling right. At least the headache’s gone. I compare this Easter with last. I’m certainly not feeling as chipper this morning. But stepping back a bit further, I wonder: what’s changed for me in a year? What does Easter mean to me right now? Do I still feel that kind of hope for the future?
Martha no longer has it in her to leave her kitchen. To make the trek to our house for Easter dinner. She has always come to our house for the holiday dinners. This will be the first time ever that she hasn’t, making this past Christmas dinner her last one at mom and dad’s. There has to be a last time, it’s only you hardly ever know while it’s happening that it is going to be the last time. The time you needed to pay careful attention to every little detail lest you forget how it felt, sounded, smelled… My husband always used to say I spent too much time looking back, feeling sad, dwelling on the poignant… Maybe. I like to think it’s about making peace with it, identifying it – showing the past my deep appreciation. I have a memory from Easter, now some ten years ago (as Elihu was not yet born) when it had snowed, and Ruthie’d gotten her car stuck in the driveway. As I helped Martha across the snow and up my parents’ long driveway, I made some comment about getting ‘purchase’ on the snow. “I like that word” Martha’d said in her commanding tone. I’d told her that I agreed. Yes, I told her I’d very much liked the word ‘purchase’ used with that meaning. And I noted how you didn’t hear the word used too often these days in that context. “No, you don’t” Martha agreed, in her broad voice. I remember the snow, the two older women who’d been there for my whole life, still able to walk, drive, conduct a life outside their homes. Ruthie’s been gone six years now. A lot changes in ten years. Today Martha can hardly manage to leave her kitchen. A lot changes in a year, too.
In my sick bed I found myself pulling two books from a pile I’d intended one day to read. Both were about death. Read “Imperfect Endings” cover to cover; a book about a woman’s process with her mother’s intentional death. Consumed with my own inability to process the idea of the final goodbye, and impatient to take the time to finish another book, I searched for more immediate information on Youtube. Watched a film by Terry Pratchett on assisted suicide. It was enough for now. Got into bed. Felt strangely unsafe in taking my prescription sleeping pill. Dreamt all night of saying goodbyes. Awoke hoping that all this contemplation would make it easier to get down to the nitty gritty before it was too late. I had questions for my dad, my mom. Must ask them. They know I love them, I’m able to tell them, but while they’re still fully present – I must spend some time with them. They will only live on in my witness. My witness, and that of their friends and loved ones. I feel it’s important that I devote some energy to this. This witness to their lives.
Today is a day of supreme witness. Whether we believe the story of Jesus’ resurrection or not, it seems we all share witness to a kind of universal hope on this day. The kind of hope that says ‘things might not be so great today, but they will get better.’ The kind of hope that offers a gentle smile, a shrug of the shoulders, a wink of the eye. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel the profound hope and promise of Jesus, most of us allow ourselves to accept a little uplifting of the spirits on this day. In my own home there is a mix of celebration and implied disdain for the holy narrative that inspires the holiday (so too at Christmas). I always find this dysfunctional dichotomy a little hard to take, but as our discussion of things spiritual has been historically limited to discussion about what time I needed to be at church in order to acolyte as a teenager – I’m sure not about to expose the topic now. Better to sip the Bloody Marys and nibble at the shrimp. Talk about the garden. Because now, I have a big swath of earth, turned and ready for seeding, a real almost-garden to talk about. One year ago that was only a dream. Yup, a lot can change in a year.
Been in my sick clothes too long. Must shed them, make the bed, get into a shower. Not quite feeling up to it, but a friend is hosting a brunch, and I’m to be there at 10:30. Moving slow, I’ll definitely be late. She’s giving her granddaughter six baby chicks for Easter on the condition that she let Elihu house them for her. (He agreed.) I’ll meet the new members of our flock shortly.
Later, we’ll bring Martha a pitcher of Bloody Marys and a tray of cocktail shrimp, her favorite. We’ll sit about the dusty kitchen and chat, dad half-nodding, his face showing his discomfort at all the rapid-fire small talk being tossed about the room, scraps of ideas moving too fast for him to make sense of. Once he said we sounded like chickens. I thought this was funny, and accurate. His growing distance from the action allows him some perspective. He may not catch everything that’s said, but he very much gets the gist of what’s going on around him.
I hope he has the stamina for our afternoon, for after we leave Martha and her hound dog alone again, we Conants are off to Winslow’s, a local restaurant known for its simple, home-cooked fare. My mom is found of reminding me that the chef is “CIA trained”. After having a burger there with Elihu a few weeks back (oh-so-indulgently served on thick, buttered toast) I met an attractive man about my age whom I thought might be the owner; he wore chef’s clothes and stood behind the bar ready to settle my bill. I asked him if the accordion player still played there on Wednesdays. After a tiny bit of confusion (he thought I had perhaps mistaken him for that accordion player) he offered that his mother had in fact made him take lessons when he was a kid. “Really?” I asked. “Because I play too. Or did play.” I made some comment about how lame my left hand was with the buttons, making a hand position in the air – he smiled, so I wasn’t off base, but the conversation had no where to go. He was closing, I was paying, and that was pretty much it. But I was intrigued- could this be the ‘CIA trained’ chef? This middle-aged, longish haired fellow who once took accordion lessons? A thought, the likes of which had not once seriously entered my consciousness since moving here, began to flicker… was this man, perhaps – unlikely, but just perhaps – single??
Given the reality of my life plus the cautioning tone of a friend I’d shared this with, I’d decided just to shelve the whole idea. But today I’d be going back. Maybe another opportunity. ? Maybe not. Either way, it keeps me moving through my day, as my sick tummy would rather have me stay in bed. Yes, I can say that it’s hope that compels me onward today. I hope that little Raiden loves her chicks. I hope that Martha enjoys her shrimp. I hope that mom, dad and Andrew enjoy the restaurant. Dare I hope to catch sight of the accordion-playing chef? While he yet exists in my imagination, and I may well learn one day that he’s happily married with three children and a dog, for now I’ll ignore that possibility. After all, today is a day of hope, right?
May we appreciate fully all the good that we’ve had in our lives, the good we have with us right now, and may we keep our hearts open to all the wonderful experiences that we are yet to know. A Happy, Hopeful Easter to us all.