Thursday, November 3, 2011
Out of Control
The eagle had landed; her rolling talons gripped the Florida tarmac, screeching while grabbing hold of the spinning earth. I held my breath for a brief moment; tucked snuggly between my two gentlemen seatmates. I got to chat to both of them although they never acknowledged each other. I was the female partition between two alpha males, which made me wonder if they didn’t speak because there was some sort of macho competition going on (although that’s hard to imagine seeing I had been up since 2:00am and looked like a rumpled pigeon) or were they just being shy. Either way they served in taking my mind off my cold and the last dragging miles of a very long journey.
My husband and I had gone to Massachusetts to visit family. This is where we both grew up and it had been nearly seven years since our last visit. My in-laws have been migrating to Florida each winter for the last eleven years, so we’ve been enjoying our annual visits with them in the Sunshine State. This visit was different. You see my father-in-law is fighting cancer, and had recently started his chemo treatments. I don’t need to remind you of the long and complicated list of side effects that chemo can cause. My father-in-law was steadfastly engaged in fighting off these pharmacological assaults on all fronts.
It took two stays in the hospital to get these renegade side effects under control. During which time his family stayed closely by his side. I’ve been a part of this family for over thirty three years, and feel every bit a daughter, but there was a little wiggle room in there where I could observe the family and witness the culmination of a lifetime of love being devotedly ministered in a ten by ten foot hospital room. The synchronicity was natural, a step ahead of verbal cues, flowing from hearts motivated by love. It was amazing.
I was acutely aware of the loss of control involved in dealing with such a serious illness, loss of control for the one fighting the illness, and for the family at his side. There is a certain raw tension that pulls at the heart when someone you love is in distress, a fight or flight impulse, only there is nobody to fight and no place to run. One must simply deal…and trust. My father-in-law flowed within this reality; teaching his family how to be brave and vulnerable all at once.
I watched my mother-in-law wrestle with this reality as she also dealt with the ever-changing necessities of daily living. These demands seemed red-hot with urgency, as though the burner had been turned to high requiring her to keep a constant eye on the pot.
There were a few intense moments along the way but the one which sits fresh in my mind was that freak October Nor’easter! We had to drive to the airport in white-out conditions. With each gust of wind, the autumn leaves, acting like cupped hands full of snow, would pummel our windshield with snowballs. It was like being ambushed by a mob of unruly school boys.
Having finally made it to the airport we were notified that our flight had been cancelled. Okay, I called before we left and the airlines had assured us that, short of four feet of snow falling, there was no way in hell that they were going to cancel our flight. Hmpf!!! ^%$$#@$^%$!!!
So, we set off, once again, through the blinding snows, and building drifts, dodging nervous drivers, and deadly limbs, all the way back to suburbia. There was no control to be had when facing Mother Nature’s fury. I had to be brave and vulnerable…just like my father-in-law.
I couldn’t wait to get back to the warmth and safety of the family home, contently snuggled into my bed, sipping on hot tea while watching something mindlessly entertaining on television. This is where the needle scratches across the record…………….!!!!!!!!!!! There would be no TV watching, tea drinking, or warm cuddling because there was no power!
We had no car, although even if we had it would have done us no good. We had no heat or lights. We had nothing. I felt the prickly feet of fear marching through my constricted arteries like an army of spiders wearing spiky golf shoes. You can always count on fear, being of an opportunistic and maniacal nature, to be the first on the scene during any crisis.
I quietly lay beneath the covers, listening to the wind whistle through the trees, praying that none of the oversized oaks that stand sentinel around my in-law’s small ranch would fall and crush us. I also mourned the loss of morning coffee, a hot shower, and the Florida sunshine that, had we caught our flight, I would be basking in on the morrow.
I awoke to the chill of the morning with bright sunshine sneaking in through the sides of the bedroom shades; its soft lemony stripes crisscrossed my blanket, making me wonder if the snowstorm had been a bad dream. My icy nose told me otherwise, so I quickly dressed and made my way to the nearest window.
As Juliet said to Romeo, “Ah me,” having found no suitable words in the King’s English to otherwise describe the inexplicable joy and rapture of being in love. The view had stolen my breath away, transporting me to a place where I was neither cold nor afraid. I could only stare in awestruck wonder as the scene somehow compensated for the disruptive nature of the storm.
Using my cell, we borrowed a car and swiftly made our way through our Rockwellian neighborhood to the nearest McDonald’s. The line was incredibly long but we waited with unflinching patience enjoying the blowing warmth of the car heater.
When we returned to the house Mikes’ mom was sitting in her chair enjoying the snowy view. Handing her a mug full of coffee, she eagerly wrapped her cold hands around it, and sipped at the hot liquid. I watched her, wrapped in a blanket like an ancient seer, calmly enjoying her modern breakfast in spite of all that seemed to be falling apart around her. She could control none of it…and she was at peace with this knowledge.
I doubt my mother-in-law realizes how loudly this display of stoic acceptance spoke to me. Each time I look at her photograph I fill up with emotion.
This trip has taught me a lot. It taught me how control is but an illusion, and how love, the most powerful of forces, somehow makes up for our lack of control. It also taught me that no matter how old we are there are still lessons to learn and that some of the toughest lessons may visit us in the winter of our lives. I still have so much to learn but of one thing I’m certain; I’m incredibly honored to call my in-laws Mum and Dad.
Posted by Leah Griffith at 4:50 AM