We are beginning a remodeling program at our house, so you might say I have given up my mind for Lent. The goal is to make the house more fully accessible for Carys so that she can become more safely independent. I gave my mind up a long time ago when I gave it over to worry about her falls and my aging. That started, well…..September 9, 2002.
The day I realized I was pregnant, at my age. Giving up my mind for Lent seems a small loss in comparison.
Carys was not as eager to remodel as I was. Surprisingly, she fiercely resisted the idea. It was hard for her to deal with the choice: move to a house more accommodating to our needs, or remodel this one. Moving presents the issue of losing friends in the neighborhood and the house she has called home her entire life. She has accommodated to the difficulties this house presents for her. It is, after all, the demon she knows. She has no idea that this could be a lot easier . Faced with the choice of giving up what she knows or giving up the difficulties, she still prefers to keep what she knows and deal with the difficulties.
It has taken two years of discussion to move from absolute opposition to tentative accommodation to the idea of remodeling. The final point of resistance came in my blind spot. I could see nothing but good coming from a more accessible home. After all, I’m not getting younger either. I’m not allowed to comment about Jim. She doesn’t want to have to explain it all for her friends and anyone who comes in the house. She doesn’t want her home to look like a hospital. She made this clear to me when she finally acquiesced. “If someone comes over, I will just say it’s for you.”
Zing. She innocently shot her arrow straight into the heart of the matter. Into my heart, the one that has had a bullseye painted on it since September 9, 2002.
Of course it’s for me. I’m the one who can’t lift her when she falls to the floor, who can’t keep going up and down the stairs fetching things for her, the one with the pinched nerve in my neck, bone spurs from arthritis, the one who won’t be here for her forever. I’m also the one who needs this all worked out so that she can become as independent as possible–and quickly. Of course, I hear your protest–every parent has to do this, and you are right. Every parent has a bullseye painted on their heart exactly at the intersection of Love and Mortality, and we live with children who more or less know where to point their arrow. We can be thankful that children are usually distracted and have short attention spans. As they get older, that changes. At some point, children realize their parents aren’t immortals. It’s about the same moment that children realize their parents aren’t perfect either. Parents, meanwhile, begin to fret that their children won’t be ready for the world as it comes crashing in.
At that moment, parents raise their defenses. Some call it a mid-life crisis. We might miss that our children are scared witless. Pushing us away as they try on independence, they have never been more afraid of losing us…and we, them. Just shine a spotlight on that bullseye, will ya’?
“I’ll just say it’s for you.” Of course, it is. I give in. I allow her to think this is a clever bit of subterfuge. No, I won’t benefit at all from those grab bars or a stair lift or non-slippy floors in the bathroom or…..but I know I will. The inconvenient truth is that everyone benefits from universal access design. Curb cuts are not just for wheelchair users. I won’t believe you if you tell me that you NEVER use the handicapped accessible bathroom stall and enjoyed the extra space to take off your coat and unburden yourself. I won’t believe you if you tell me that you NEVER use the automatic door switch when your arms are full. It’s all for us, and for all of us.
It’s tough to give in . It’s tough to know how much she needs to remodel her world to be able to access it. It’s tough to know that neuromuscular disease isn’t just an expensive word on a piece of paper the geneticist handed you, to see growing evidence of it in the life one brought into the world. It’s tough for any of us to give in to the daily process of returning to dust, a process that becomes more visible (and hurts more) as we get older. Give in, we must. Give up? No way. We cannot live as though dust were not our origin and destiny, but we need not live as though we cannot be helped by letting the dust fly from some remodeling along the way.
Of course, it’s for me dear. If it’s for you, its for me too. We’re sympatico that way. I will accept your need to make it mine, even if you don’t think I really need it. We bear one another’s crosses in the way another bore ours. In the end, dust is not all that is left of us. Dust is what is left to the ground, ourselves finally chiseled and chipped and wiped clean, when God once again gathers the dust into clay, and breathes life into us. When Jesus scoops up the dust from the ground, spits on it, and heals our sightless eyes.
The Staircase to heaven needs a stair lift. My hunch is that maybe it already has one, but we keep insisting on taking the stairs. I give in. Let the dust fly!