Kids can bicker over who got the biggest cookie, why everyone did or didn’t get a trophy, and how toys should or shouldn’t be shared.
Poker dealers make sure everyone gets dealt the same number of cards from a well-shuffled deck. What each hand holds is not their job. That’s left to randomness, fate, or divine grace – depending upon your perspective. How it gets played is left to us.
I was raised Christian. Lutheran if you’re curious. My beliefs have broadened over the years. I’m spiritual – I believe deeply so – but I don’t subscribe to one particular religion. I’ve come to believe less in the divinity of one particular being and more in the divinity of life itself – of that which is inside us all and binds us all as one common thread to each other. Life is a single unifying and universal truth. Perhaps the only universal truth there is. In this sense, perhaps The Curious could say I’m a bit Buddhist, though I’ve never studied that faith and wouldn’t know a single prayer. Frankly, I don’t care what The Curious ponder about my spirituality.
I have no kids that are biologically mine. At 44 I am a stepmom to a 36 year old; we met when he was 17 and I was 25. This was perfect for me. I wrote his first college tuition check and set him off with a roll of quarters (for the laundry machines) and a pack of condoms. Staying clean is important. I told him “don’t let your studies get in the way of your education.” He’s a good man. We love each other, though I feel more like his coach than I do a mother.
I have three dogs. Ages 4 – 6. Clearly we are not the same genus and species. I love them, and I know I am their mother. I would lie down in front of a train to protect them. No questions asked. No blink of an eye. No regrets but one: it’s a card I can play only once; after that I cannot protect them anymore.
I think about death every day. I thank my dogs for that. But, it’s not my life – or death rather – that I contemplate. It’s theirs’. I carry with me every moment this thought: that if all goes in life according to the odds of poker, I will out-live them. I will mourn them. I will grieve. And that grief will be unbearable. Physically I will go on living, but it will be with a shattered heart.
This knowledge of unendurable grief is a gift. It reminds me how precious life is. As copious a kisser as my pup Grace is, there is a finite number of kisses she will give in her life. As many steps as my shadow Lula takes behind me, there is a day when she will take her last. And as much hair as Mae sheds, there is a day when there will be no more. There is nothing on Earth that cannot be taken away.
Since we possess nothing, everything is a gift.
My girls love to play. We take walks – the two-hour deep-woods off-leash hiking kind – nearly every day. They chase each other, hunt chipmunks, swim and fish in ponds, and smile the entire time. When we reach the car we are all generally spent – except for Grace. She could play forever. She protests by standing by the open door of the car not willing to jump in like her sisters. This is how she communicates. She doesn’t make me chase her. She doesn’t speak. She just stands there, telling me she is not yet done playing. She is not ready to go.
I smile. I hug her. She kisses me. I remember that most important thing. And I whisper in her ear. “Grace, all good things must come to an end. Otherwise we would never get to do them again.”