Woman nearing sixty, and still trying to get it right. Stumbling the path toward the Divine. Discussing things like grandchildren, Waldorf education, dogs, aging parents, empty-nesting, and knitting luscious things once in awhile.
Mom is downstairs in the hospital now, on the Skilled Nursing Unit while she regains her strength and heals a spinal compression fracture. I usually visit her before work in the morning, and at that time she is up in the activity room doing, yep, some sort of activity that I join into with her. Tuesday it was Bingo. Yesterday they were coloring Mandalas with colored pencils.
Sitting across the table from her yesterday was Jack. I have no idea how old Jack is, but he seems to be nudging centenarian-ism. No speech, no teeth, dry skin that's flaking off, skinny, knobby hands loosely grasping colored pencils, and bushy eyebrows. But under those bushy eyebrows you are met with these intensely blue eyes that just stare at you when you talk to him. Just stare and stare.
What's in there, Jack? What do you want to say? It's a guessing game at best. Do you want a new color? A new position? Lunch? To get the hell out of here?
Light scratchy scribbles, little tiny lightening bolt scribbles from the center of his paper out to the right and off the paper. In the middle of it all the stretched out word "J.A.C.K" written all caddywhompus like the secret code letters you need to enter at the end of a blog post.
And then, so slowly he lays his pencil down and reaches for a tissue from the box....then so slowly lays it down adjacent to the right edge of the paper and continues to allow his drawing/scribbling to extend onto the tissue.
I talk to him about this, help him straighten the paper in front of him, and put the tissue in his other hand. He stares at me. I explain: "That's for your nose Jack." I touch his mandala printed sheet and hand him a new, bright purple color. I meet his gaze and smile broadly and as warmly as I can. He outstares me yet again.
I go back to coloring Mandalas with Mom. A few minutes pass and I forget about the tissue.
When I look back I am astonished that not only is the tissue on the right side of his paper again, but the purple pencil is down and he is scribbling on the tissue with the same brown pencil I had put away. I laugh lightly, "Hmmmm," I say, "I think you're wanting to make that plain old tissue into a beautiful hankie, Jack."
Again he stares. Again I smile my warmest smile. He stares. I smile.
And then I have to look away again.
But this time I think I get it Jack. MYOFB?
Mom holds her paper up for Jack to see. He slowly nods yes.
I know I am in the city. I know that because I live on a very noisy street in an ancient little third floor apartment in an ancient medium-sized walk-up apartment building. I know because people fight outside my window and bugs get in under my back kitchen door. I know because as I stand at my frontdoor digging for my keys I don't smell my house-smells, I smell a whole mixing pot of dishes on stoves and in ovens.
But this city is adjacent to America's richest farming belts. So today after the babies were fed dinner and bathed we went for an evening walk to the Andersonville Grower's Market. And now I am home with the goods. Of course, I had every good intention of cooking myself a nice pot of vegetable soup tonight, which I have been craving for days now.
A familiar story: Once I poured myself a glass of iced tea and changed clothes, I no longer had the burning desire to cook. So, I sliced off a big hunk of cracked wheat bread (hand-crafted and fired in a stone oven at Bennison's Bakery), popped it in the toaster, slathered it with butter and sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar...and there was my dinner. And dessert all in one! But I don't despair, there remains (for tomorrow night's soup) Savoy cabbage, heirloom tomatoes, bell pepper, golden beets, jalapeno peppers, Mirai corn, onions, garlic; an English cucumber to slice, and a pretty good sized hunk of cracked wheat bread for dipping.