All but the shattered glass was a blur. My morning’s promise of journaling and cozy coffee was replaced with a dangerous mess—a sharp awakening. Unavoidable. My elbow dinged the French press as I grabbed my vitamins. No matter how careful, these fragile coffee makers eventually break. Don’t they?
I pedaled backwards and slid on sandals. I remembered my parents in broken glass situations, their diligence to keep us safe. “We don’t want your little feet anywhere near this until it’s cleaned up.” As kids you are vanquished to the next room. Protected. As the only adult, I handled that morning’s mishap and experienced a mixed moment of remembering and realization.
I mirrored my parents’ tactic of taking a wet paper towel and combing the area, over and over. They would say, “We have to protect your little tootsies.” I replicated their diligence but handled the situation without emotion.
Later, in reflection, I teared up a little. I was over the physical loss of my green coffee press, but feeling a bit helpless from the days before. Days where our Dad was back in the ICU—the terror of receiving the “Dad is non-responsive” texts from my siblings. These texts could have been a copy and paste from other visits. It doesn’t matter how many times he has to go to the hospital or how many nights we wait. Not knowing if he will become “responsive” is a fear that doesn’t subside.
Sweet friends ask, “Is your Dad better?” “Is he going to be okay?” All of these questions are asked with such love. None of them have answers. I simply share, he is out now. He is feeling a lot better. I find myself confiding less and less in friends about these struggles. Not having answers feels like burden I shouldn’t share.
He can be “better” (than he was in the hospital, certainly the ICU) for a time. But life’s fragile shards of his chronic pain and illness will catch an elbow and everything will stop again. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times my siblings and I are down on knees with wet paper towels trying to make sure he doesn’t have to worry about the unfortunate glass he was dealt. This role reversal is one we learned way earlier than most. To be hyper aware and never really certain when the next coffee press will drop. We only know the calls will come.
There is so much I can’t see. In my piece Untied Bow, I talk about the nonexistent conclusions everyone waits to hear. The “it’s all better. We are all—ALL better.” But those rarely come. And we have to be okay with knowing glass is still out there. Despite diligence, the fragile will break again. That mix of unsettled relief has me scour for remnants. When I do, I discover deeper cuts than I realized. More bundled in the pain of “not knowing.” When I’m brave, I confide a harsh realization that, as a single person, I was and am the handler of my life’s broken glass. And it’s okay to sit with that and not “make it all better.”
After all, these raw and lovely and painful moments are what make life. Days after my Dad’s successful release, after hearing his voice and being so relieved, I received some of the best writing news to date. Major downs followed by ups. Who sympathizes with this roller coaster we never asked to ride? When have you realized the onus in cleaning up broken glass? Was there relief? Or do you continue to feel vulnerable to the hidden shards?
Your Brave Tutu (You’re brave, too-too!)
-Take courage in delight. Discover power in small moments.