In the Aftermath of May

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In May we bought a house. After years of building my dream home in my mind—with every move and every home that “isn’t how I would have…”—I am preparing to move into a home that isn’t how I would have…and make it my own.

At the end of April, after yet another setback with building, Superman suggested we go look at a home in this fine neighborhood on top of one our many surrounding mountains (Strawberry Mountain, in fact. Does it get any more quaint than a fruit-named mountain?). I balked. I complained, maybe more than a little. But I went. And as I was walking through this home that “isn’t how I would have…,” I remember thinking, “So…this is what it’s like to not build my dream home. This is what it’s like.” It was my one pervasive thought.

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In May, my mother suffered a stroke. It was the same day we put in our offer on the house. In fact, my brother called while we were in the meeting with our realtor drafting the offer. Once I established that she was alive, and her general condition was favorable (or maybe I was thinking all this at the same time), I remember thinking, “So…this is what it’s like to get that call when you live far away. This is what it’s like.” My brother was speaking words from Illinois into my ear in Virginia and I can’t remember anything he said. I only remember, “This is what it’s like.” It was my one pervasive thought.

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We closed on our house on a Friday–June 5th–at 4pm. We have more land than where we were going to build and better views. This home has already supported the raising of one family; when I walk through it I hear it telling me, “I am up to the task. I can support the raising of yours.” Best of all, the house is a blank slate; strong bones and well loved but mighty dated. And with the money we saved by buying instead of building, I get to do what I’ve been doing with every home we’ve lived in these past 18 years: be creative with what I’m given, only sooner and with more resources. All those years of thinking I was just making the best of things….

Of course…silly me. How could I not imagine this is what it would be like all along?

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 My mother is recovering beautifully from her stroke. Does that sound cliché or sentimental? I mean it in all earnestness. She is recovering in accordance with her personality: with dignity and a quiet bravery that I’m not sure she recognizes in herself. A few days after her stroke, my sister asked her how she was able to make it through her MRI without any drugs or sedation (because, you know, I can’t imagine many things more awful that having an MRI). You know what she said? “Well, I just closed my eyes and started thinking about all you kids. I thought about riding the mini-Baja with Sam and how he took my hand off the throttle and replaced it with his saying, ‘No, Nana. Like this.’ And, I thought about Nolan and that time he…”

Slowly and with effort in each word pronounced, with a slight slur coming from her left side, my mother described years of treasured moments—none of them smeared or made messy by her stroke—each memory like a piece of found sea glass: small, held carefully, saved—maybe for a time such as this.

Of course…how could I not imagine this is what it would be like all along?

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Until the end of May, I didn’t know I wondered about what those things would be like: not building my dream house, receiving an emergency family call from far away. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve wondered (or more like, feared), but who admits to such things? Isn’t that inviting them to happen?

Didn’t they happen anyway?

And what were those things like? I’m not sure I have the words to describe them…I’m afraid it would just sound trite or sentimental—the writer’s dreaded foes.

But here is my best try anyway…

It was like being pushed from behind when you’re least expecting it, over a ledge you have never peered beyond, because you didn’t even know you were standing so near a ledge. Once you are pushed, you take a step forward reflexively, trying to find solid ground. There is nothing beneath you and you feel the fall, but you take steps anyway. One. Then another. Then another. You never feel stable, but you don’t crash to the bottom, either. You just keep taking steps, because that is all you know to do. And somehow—by some grace you can’t even acknowledge at the time, at least not directly—you find you’ve come across to the other side. Because there is another side. You just never noticed it until now.

Of course…silly me. How could I not imagine this is what it would be like all along.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  –Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

Copyright 2015 by Shari Dragovich

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