I don’t mean in the existential sense, I mean here, right here; look down at your feet. Have you ever wondered what kind of bad luck, Karma or whatever, it takes to be struck by lightning or hit on the head by a falling branch?
You’ve tempted fate, driven recklessly, flown in storms and maybe even poked a screwdriver into an electrical socket and still, somehow, you’ve survived.
Yet one day, you’re in a park full of trees and people, and somehow, in all this randomness, lighting strikes the exact spot where you’re standing.
So, why were you at that exact spot, at that exact second on that very day?
Because you were supposed to be.
Somewhere in your distant past, somebody connected to you, moved; maybe an inch, maybe a thousand miles and inevitably, a path was formed.
That somebody had a somebody, who, uncertain of their future, looked down at their feet and back from whence they came and took a step, extending the ancient path
Each time we interact with someone or something, we adjust our direction, but always continuing on the path that preceded us.
From what may appear to be chaos, comes order. If one could stand back far enough and see their ancient path from its beginning to the present day, tomorrow’s direction would become quite clear.
You were struck by lightning because your path in life began thousands of years ago and the place that you were standing, at that very minute, on that very day, was exactly the place where you were supposed to be.
A couple in their early 50s were celebrating. The last of their 5 children had moved out on her own, and they were now, finally, “empty nesters.” The house was quiet, a bit too quiet they thought, but they agreed to hold off making any big decisions for at least 6-9 months. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and soon they again, began thinking about down-sizing and retirement, “oh, but what if we have grandchildren?” “we’ll need the space then,” they agreed, and decided to wait a little while longer.
About 6 months later, the phone rings. “It’s me,” she says. “I’m at the doctor’s office and, you’re not going to believe this, I’m pregnant.” (Silence) “Is that possible?” he asked. “Apparently, I didn’t go through, “the change” like I thought,” she replied. “The doctor wants us both to be here for the ultrasound.” “How far along are you?” he asked, surprised. “12-14 weeks, he thinks,” she said. “I wondered…” “Don’t even go there!” she snapped, “I thought I was just ‘putting on my winter coat’ after the holidays.”
The doctor wasn’t optimistic. This would be an age-related high-risk pregnancy and he closed his eyes as the results of the tests began to populate his computer screen. Cringing, he began at the top and, putting his finger on the screen, read each line one at a time. Ok…,Ok…, NT screening… positive, he stopped; Down Syndrome is likely. The doctor ordered a CVS test to be sure … it was positive. Based on the totality of the results, the doctor felt that the child’s Down Syndrome would be quite severe. The doctor explained the results, answered questions and said that abortion was an option that they should seriously consider.
What would you do?
While you’re thinking about that, let me remind you of one word; “choice.” You assume they actually have one. Fortunately for them, they still do; for now. We take for granted the word “choice” and casually allow others to force their beliefs upon us. I say casually because most do nothing, while one politician or another proposes legislation that attempts to take away YOUR ability to choose. I mean you may bitch about it, but that’s about it and then you’ll turn the channel.
Choice matters as when we choose, we evolve. Choice forces us to reason, to grow, to pick a side. One of John F. Kennedy’s favorite quotes was from Dante: ‘The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in a time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.” While it’s not word for word as Dante wrote it, you get the point. Making a choice is important but having the right to actually choose, well that’s the ballgame.
As long as we continue to tolerate those who, for whatever ignorant reason, insist on taking away our right to choose the destiny of our own lives, of our own bodies, we’ll have no one left to blame but ourselves. I guess we can still choose whether or not to obey, but is that really a choice?
Well, at the end of the day, they chose to have the child; a wonderful little boy. He has Down Syndrome but is considered “high functioning.” It has been a struggle, but they can’t imagine life without him and he seems to doing well. I most likely, would have chosen differently, though.
Society, or actually those who seek to control it, have little need for choice as it just complicates their decision making process. They would prefer that the flock simply follow the shepherd.
Recently, I was helping a couple prepare their new 5th wheel trailer for a long drive home.
Earlier in the day, somehow, my having Parkinson’s disease came up and I, as usual, quickly steered the conversation elsewhere and we moved on.
When it came time to leave, he politely reached out his hand and asked if I would pray with him. He said that he was concerned about my “eternal future,” asked me if I had been “saved” and then handed me a Christian flyer. I was speechless; he had blindsided me and my brain shut down leaving me without my usual list of excuses to escape.
He then began to pray and asked God, essentially, to cure me of Parkinson’s disease. He then covered the usual prayer essentials and said amen. During the prayer, my brain had a chance to reboot and after “Gotta go; dog died, house is on fire, daughter’s in jail, whatever,” I beat a path to my car.
People rarely, if ever, surprise me but, apparently, this gentleman was a Ninja Evangelist.
Now to be fair, he was kind, genuine and respectful. But, he said the “p” word and what’s even worse, he asked God to cure me. That’s what bothers me the most. My Parkinson’s doesn’t belong to him, God or anyone else; it’s mine; everyday, all day. Oddly, I felt offended that he was trying to take it away so casually.
I’ve spent the last five-ish years trying to make peace with both myself and this disease. Each morning, as we stare at each other across life’s chess board, I still foolishly cling to the notion that I can actually beat this through sheer will and perseverance alone; new day, new opportunity, I guess. Fortunately, it’s progression has been slow, for now, and I’ve been able to adjust. At this point, I think of it as dying by Zamboni.
The truth is, I own this disease or vise-versa, depending on the day. I blame no one for it, including God. We all have our battles in life, and this, hopefully, will be the only disease that I ever have to fight, but who knows, life can be terribly cruel sometimes.
But, for now, this is my battle, my disease and my life. I’ve invested an enormous amount of time and emotional energy into living with it and if I’m ever to be “cured,” it won’t be because of a few presumptive words and a firm handshake. The world just doesn’t work that way.
In the beginning, a parent, for the most part, dictates the relationship that they’ll have with their child. As the child matures and becomes an adult, it’s more 50/50.
I have had two fathers in my life. The first, of course, biological and the other, a step-father. As an adult, I chose to be distant from both. Neither possessed qualities that I liked or admired. One an alcoholic fighting his demons and the other, a dishonest man who “played games” with people’s minds.
The first passed away almost three years ago and the second, in late April of this year.
As a child and then an adult, I felt that I knew them well and that they, well, knew me.
When a parent dies, the “curtain” gets pulled back and you as their child, get to see how they really lived. If you’re curious enough, you look through the mountainous pile of paperwork left behind; bank statements, high school love letters, receipts and the 29 cent birthday card they bought sixty years ago. You find their box of knick-knacks, which to you, appears to be a box of miscellaneous odds and ends, but to them, each treasured item was a trip down memory lane.
If you’re thorough, you may have the rare joy of re-meeting your parents. Hopefully, as you sit amongst the enormous pile that chronicled their life, you are left uttering the words, “I had no idea…” and are pleasantly amazed.
But, peering behind the curtain can also be a double-edged sword.
The first peek left me with regret. We were more alike than I ever knew, both good and bad. I would liked to have known him better, but that, unfortunately, was not our way.
The second, I knew all too well and as I pulled the curtain tightly closed, I learned that with his death, the world is now, sadly, a better place.