“You know I need someone. Help.” — John Lennon
Out walking the neighborhood this morning, the dogs and I came across an orange construction cone. On top rested a work glove. A quick look at the road revealed no obvious need for the cone and as for the work glove, who but God knows. But the combination was sheer poetry that spoke to my current state.
Until Dad was admitted to the hospital early Friday, I’ve kept a two-person lifestyle afloat while my better half has been hard at work in Beijing. To be sure, it’s been a tightrope balancing act for these past five weeks, to manage everyday life on the Mesta Park home front while pulled to Shawnee on a host of planned and unplanned emergency trips to help care for Daddy.
One day Dad looks pretty good, the next not so, though his body is all the time being pumped full with antibiotics and steroids to cure this undiagnosed infection. I look him in the eyes and tell him he’s the best daddy in the world. And he knows I mean it, as his eyes and my own fill with tears.
Daddy can’t help that his floundering health comes at a darn inconvenient time. Nor can I help that my neediness has seeped out in the last few days to impinge on the lives of my children, as they’ve been asked to don a pair of work gloves to help keep the pieces of my life running if not smooth, at least rough. But, boy do I hate to ask for help, even from those I love best in the world. Call it pride. Call it, as St. Paul wrote, ‘regarding others better than myself.’ Maybe its a bit of both. But as Mama use to say about money, help doesn’t just ‘grow on trees,’ and I wonder whether a true desire of helping can even be sown into the hearts and minds of others.
God knows I tried in my own children, for my own version of a ‘mama use to say’ — Do your best and think of others— was spouted off to the kids so often I bet they just turned off the spigot, back when the boys were still in elementary school and the girls were at the age where they’d begun to realize it was they that ‘knew it all’ while poor ‘ole Mom knew squat nothing. Perhaps my spouting words merely reflected how I wanted to be myself, for while some people are natural born helpers, the rest of us just flounder amidst inadequacy and confusion.
And the words we speak to excuse ourselves. They’d be funny if they weren’t so sad and didn’t hit so close to home. “Well, I would have helped … had I’d known you needed help… if I weren’t so busy and had more time… or…if I knew what I could do. At one time or another, I’ve worn all these gloves. I mean hats. Or in the case of my construction conehead I saw this morning, I’ve worn all these glove -hats.
But I wonder if the best teacher of altruism isn’t adversity, as several from an older and more gracious generation made a point to let my sister and I know of their willingness to help… however we needed. I’m told my maternal grandfather began to get his own breakfast — and that of my grandmother’s — after Granny suffered a mild stroke in 1962. That would be seventeen years of breakfasts, before Granddad passed in 1979. My mother’s family tend to speak more with actions than words, so I don’t imagine any words related to the new breakfast protocol were ever spoken. Together they hit a bump in the road and together my grandparents compensated with their own sort of detour, one that worked for them, even if it meant my grandfather had to do a bit of ‘women’s work’ in the way of love.
And how is it that, in the mysterious ways of love and of actions speaking louder than words, that I’ve just received word that my husband is on his way home? Two days early. His work has hit an unexpected detour of its own.
So help is on the way in the best way. By the one who loves me most, outside of God. And what more is there to say? But this. Thank God.