Red cardboard hearts and cupids dance softly on strings tacked to the ceiling. Underneath, a string of shuffling feet go up and down the hallway aided by walkers and wheelchairs. Even in the nursing home, where life moves in slow-motion, not many take notice of the symbols of the season.
Nursing home life reminds me of elementary school, where each passing holiday and season is celebrated with cardboard cut-outs — orange pumpkins turn into brown turkeys which turn into white snowmen which are now red hearts and cupids. Perhaps the changing colors and shapes break-up time and keep the days from homogenizing into white skim milk. Or an experience of deja vu.
Of course, today’s holiday — Groundhog’s Day — is a cut below those which merit cardboard decorations. During my days at school, there were no parties thrown in honor of the event, nor were they any special lessons that I can recall. That a groundhog seeing his shadow on February 2nd meant six more weeks of winter, was a legend I learned from Mother rather than school teachers. Yet, even from this much reliable source, the tale of the charming fair-weather forecaster seemed a bit far-fetched for even this former first grader to swallow.
Just as far-fetched was the Groundhog Day movie I grew up to like more than the legend itself. Watching Bill Murray stuck in a February 2nd time loop while he slowly changed from a self-centered ego maniac to become everyone’s best friend was a story right up my alley. The grace in receiving as many ‘do-overs’ as one needs to get life ‘right’ is truly the stuff of fairy tales. Isn’t it?
Every day as Bill wakes up to February 2nd and goes to bed on February 2nd — and every time Bill turns out his bedside lamp, it is easy to imagine some off-camera director yelling, “Cut; one more take, Bill. One more take for you to get life right.”
As I thought about this movie today, I thought of my brother’s fight to shake off shadows lurking in his own life loop. I’ve lost track of the number of times Jon has been in the drug — detox — rehab — right living — loop. Just recently I learned that shame lies in the shadow of every addiction cycle — that shame is the starter and the fuel to keep an addiction loop going.
I once imagined that I could help Jon break out of this loop — if only I could direct Jon action’s, like a director gives an actor direction. In my dreams, when things would appear to be going south for Jon, I saw myself yelling, “Cut. One more take, Jon. Give it your all this time, Jon. No more outtakes, please.’
Legends and movies make even the far-fetched seem do-able. But I’ve learned that breaking the drug-addiction loop is so very, very difficult by watching the same story unfold — over and over and off an on — since the early eighties. Enough turns around the loop has finally taught me that no one but God can be Jon’s director — and nothing but grace can cut Jon loose from the outtake looping.
The part I’ve been given is small — a small but supporting role of cheering Jon on in his effort to become the hero of his own story. And just like I pulled for Bill Murray, I’m pulling for our hero Jon to break out of his Groundhog Day loop.
But here’s praying that if our hero Jon sees any shadows, he’ll make like a groundhog and take cover. No shame in that, since the rest of world won’t take notice of what’s fluttering in the background of their own lives… at least, until cymbals go crashing in around them.
Yet, even now, I sense the lucky promise of green shamrocks waiting in the wings.