“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” – Louise Erdrich
I have a growing series of “unbeknownst to the subject” photos on my phone. The first is one that Ky took of me on a really tough night. He spiked a high fever quickly and that set off a whole chain of stress for both of us. I sat at his bedside, looking out the window, waiting for a miracle of any kind, watching the sun set. The sun on my face makes it look like I’m aglow. There’s an interesting irony to it.
The next two are of him, one taken yesterday, the other today. He was chilly yesterday before he napped. He bundled up in a sweatshirt we bought together in April; it was to be for our longer hikes this summer. He pulled the hood tight right before he fell asleep. If you look carefully, you can just see the side of his freshly shaved head.
The other is from our walk today, while he was unhooked from his IV. We got special permission to go outside. He had to wear a mask. The hospital has significantly less traffic on the weekend, but on such a nice day, I thought for sure the atrium would be busy. It was totally empty, a welcome sight for a mama with an ever increasing fear of germs. We sat at a table for a few minutes, then he started wheeling himself away. I told him to go ahead, I’d catch up. “Don’t take my stupid picture,” he warned over his shoulder as he began to move. I didn’t take his stupid picture; I took his beautiful picture. I don’t know how it’s possible to look so mature and so innocent all at the same time, I just know it makes my eyes awfully watery. There was my goofy, brave, still-coming-to-terms-with-it boy, moving forward. It’s a lot of work to move a wheelchair the size of the one he had, but he appeared to be a natural – especially considering he hasn’t truly been out of bed in days. We came to a spot where the only way forward is via stairs. “You can’t go down there unless you walk and I know you don’t really want to do that, so let’s turn around here.” I was trying to be helpful, one of his legs is quite sore and he was adamant earlier that he didn’t want to walk. I might as well have given him the middle finger as I spoke those words. He put the brakes on, stood up, grabbed my hand and down the stairs we went. And around the corner. And around the next corner. At one point, I wondered what passersby would think when they walked by the deserted wheelchair right next to a set of concrete stairs.
We walked as far as we could, until our walkway gave way to a street. “I want to run away,” he said, more to himself than to me. “Me too,” I said, more to myself than to him. He kicked pebbles over the line we’d artificially drawn, just to see what happened to them on the other side. Nothing. Nothing at all.
There isn’t always an apple tree to sit near; sometimes you have to adjust the symbolism to suit your circumstance and surroundings. Rocks don’t waste sweetness like apples do. But as far as I can tell, they sometimes waste their opportunity to roll. #beautifulthingshappen