Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Abyss

The Northern Bro: It is fall in New England, and a beautiful fall it is. This particular one is special for me because at 2 ½ Evelyn is finally old enough to enjoy the season. Over the last few weeks I have taught her the joys of jumping in leaves, burying people (mostly me) in leaves, shuffling through leaves and making a scarecrow. She has loved all if it, and is becoming something of a scarecrow connoisseur. We have 4 small pumpkins on our porch railing and last evening she grabbed one and carried it around with her all night. The shorter days only serve to give us time to walk in the dark in the early morning and appreciate the sunsets, which finally come before her bedtime. This evening she and I were walking through the neighborhood when she pointed to the west and said ‘pretty sky’. I looked up to see the orange clouds of a sunset. It is enough to melt a father’s heart.

Nothing could be further from this scene than an experience of several weeks ago. One of my co-workers had a grandson just 5 months older than Evelyn. However, due to the inattentiveness of the attending physician during delivery the child’s brain was left without oxygen for many critical minutes. As a result, the poor child was left without the ability to move and the degree of his cognitive function was a matter of opinion. (yes, the attending physician lost her license to practice medicine over this). He held on for almost three years before finally succumbing to a respiratory infection a few weeks ago.

I was standing in line for the child’s calling hours the day before his funeral and the unspeakable tragedy of the situation was unavoidable (as was the profound strength of the people who loved and cared for this boy his whole life). I felt as I was standing on the edge of the abyss looking down into its depths.

You see, my wife and I live in different worlds. OK, so we live in the same house and have a happy life together. All the same, through some accident of either upbringing or chemistry in some ways we do not share the same world in at least one important sense. Deep in my heart I know that the world is basically sad. At its core is a place of despair I call the abyss. The only thing that keeps a person from falling into the abyss is hard work and a lot of luck. These days, especially with Linda and Evelyn, I go for long periods without glancing down into the abyss – such glances usually accompanied by a fear that I am about to fall into said abyss. My wife, on the other hand, lives in a world that is basically a good and safe place; sure bad things and sadness comes into and out of our lives, but in her world sadness is simply a condition we sometimes live with, not the stuff the world is made of. Although I joke with her that she lives in a ‘Disney’ world, I admit that it would be nice to live in a 'Disney' world.

As I was honoring the life of this young child who never knew what it was like to lift an arm, and the lives of the people who cared for him, I was reminded of how hard life can be, and how the lives of so many can turn from joy to sorrow in the blink of an eye. I love the joy that our daughter is and the laughter she brings to our lives. And I am grateful with every fiber of my being that she can move her toes.


It's good to be married to someone who's young at heart. It helps keep you young at heart.

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