Part I: Wish I believed in Something.
So, my wrist is wrecked. Temporarily and all. Ravaged by years of sewing very fine fabric with even finer thread coupled with incessant typing. And then, then, a weekend of hyper-aggressive yard work. I was a beast, lifting 20 pound bags of soil, thinking not of ergonomics and safety, but only of “get the good dirt to the bad dirt. Pull!” And there was the enthusiastic wielding of the industrial-strength shovel.
Yes, Dad, I still have that. Thank you for lending it to me. Three years ago. I really appreciate it. I love that shovel.
So consequently, a week and a half later, my wrist is wrapped in white tape, like a gymnast’s or something really spectacular.
And I can’t essentially do a damned thing with my left hand. Ta very much, repetitive motion tendinitis. You’re awesome. Also, you hurt just a very little bit.
I don’t mind the wrist thing. It’s what it is. I tape it up and keep typing and generally, do more with my right hand, which is a real trouper. I’m grateful, as ever, that the good lord didn’t, as yet, give me more to bitch about.
But it’s had a weird side effect in its most recent incarnation. If I upset family or anyone else with what I’m about to say, I really am sorry (let me know, I’ll take down the post and hopefully you will forget I ever wrote it).
And also, for those who believe what I’m about to very publicly say I do not, I also apologize. I don’t think I’m right. I don’t think you’re wrong. The last thing I want is to offend anyone. So pre-blog apologies all around.
My wrist thing…the white bandage… it reminds me at times, as I’m fumbling with a key, bag, or coffee cup, it reminds me of my Papaw, my grandpa.
See, before the cancer ravaged his colon, it hit his arm first. The wonders of late ’80′s medicine were such that they chopped out some nerves and tendons in his arm and then gave him a brace so he could operate his fingers. (See, apologizing again. This is painful and a little graphic. I don’t know he would like it, that I’m writing about his brace and putting my thoughts online. Apologies. Seriously.)
This was no mean bit of white tape wrapped all Nadia-like around his wrist. This was a spider made of paper clips. It was a metal praying mantis. It was a puppeteer’s strings, linked to every finger with slender metal jointed pieces: like pipe organs, like Edward Scissorhands, like Rube Goldberg designed a wrist brace with metal finger trusses and then added some hinges and joints so it wouldn’t seem so simple.
And my Papaw, my sweet Papaw, wore all that so he could move his fingers.
Without complaint. At least, not within my hearing.
But there’s something in the bandage, something in my fumbling, which have brought this to mind as though it were yesterday. I can see him, in this thing on his arm. He sits calmly at the dining room table and, with the mobility provided by the metal prongs, applies his Chap Stick after dinner.
He really liked Chap Stick.
And I think about him. And I both curse and bless the memory that’s nearly tactile; that causes me to be able to smell the clean bandages, the Chap Stick; to hear the clicking of the metal pieces, and viscerally to be able to see the movements that happen– but not without the metallic medical assistance.
And I think (among a great many other things; including that “how selfish of me, who the hell cares what I think when people get cancer and go through all that: Shut Up, Michelle”): I wish I believed in something.
Specifically, I wish that I could be sure, in the way some people are sure, that we go on and we go on with some knowing sentience about the people we left behind, the people who love us still.
I really want to believe that my Papaw, our Papaw, knows– really, really knows– that he’s still remembered; that, believe it or not, he’s not remembered for the metal monster but the bravery that accompanied it, for the fact that he loved my earrings one time because they had “ice blue” hearts; that he colored a coloring book dachshund with the bittersweet crayon because “what other color would they be?”
I want him to know he’s remembered. I want him to know that he’s missed beyond belief. That every May 19th brings sadness because that’s the damn day. I want him to know every May 13 that there’ s a mental cake that is built for him. I want him still to be connected in a very real way– him, not his body, not his brace, not the goddamned cancer. I frequently want his advice, his humor, his company.
I will accept that I can’t access those things. But to accept that they just exist no longer is a bit much.
I can’t believe in heaven. I can’t believe in continued knowing existence.
I want to, very much.
I want to believe; I want to know, that not only do we go on, with resolution (you, my child, did okay with what you knew and what you had. It was a test. You may not have passed but you didn’t quite fail. It was a really hard test) but we go on, still, with connection to those that join us, those that preceded us.
I want to think that my Papaw welcomed his parents to wherever “there” is.
I want to think that he knows what we know and he’s just waiting for us: not the physical, but the part of him that is actually him.
And someday, I’ll go there, and I will be greeted and I will be waiting and I will know, too, just what it was all for, and more importantly, I’ll be able to see the ones I love so very much. All of them. And we’ll be aware enough to know one another, to remember.
I believe in, well, nothing.
I know what I want. I know there’s nothing to suggest what I want is true, which does not mean it isn’t; it just means we can’t know it in the same way we know other things.
And, for the way my self seems to be constructed, well, I can’t know and I know damned well I can’t know.
My desire is not enough to be faith.
My desire is not enough to be truth. My desire is faulty. My knowledge too limited. My awareness that what is true doesn’t mean it has to be literal and vice versa…
all of it conspires to make me a person who believes only that we (I) cannot know and anything is possible.
In some senses, I believe in everything. Which is to believe in nothing.
And it is not the most comforting non-belief system to be a part of.
There’s no wisdom to this story. There’s quite a bit of embarrassment and humility. If, tonight, you have faith, I hope you find comfort in it. I hope you are right.
And I find myself wishing I were one among you, questioning what it is in my make-up which prevents me having certainty on anything, defying comfort, no matter how hard it is hoped for.
I’ll keep questioning and guessing, hoping I hit on the faith-formula that somehow sticks, but I doubt that it will ever come.
Still, I’ll keep searching. And if you haven’t found your truth just yet, I will hope you find yours, too.
We do what we do here and it matters.
But I wonder, oh, I wonder: what comes next?