as it was

May 19, 2008

It was the first time I have seen my mother dance. She clung tightly to my stepfather, her tear-stained face resting on his shoulder. Next to me, my brother wept at the sight, covering his face with his hands. I hesitantly rested my hand on his hunched shoulder, longing to reach out in a big sisterly love but restrained by my own discomfort at seeing his tears. He cried out of a pure, loving joy at the closeness of our family that day. And he cried because he saw the touching beauty of our paralyzed mother being supported by her husband as the emotions of such an intensely significant day overcame her.
My own reaction, however, was decidedly more conflicted. I wanted to see it as beautifully moving; I even wished that I could also be moved to tears, as I had been earlier, as the bride and groom said their vows, and when I spoke in tribute. But I could not. Instead, my eyes were glued to Mom’s feet. My practicality overruled emotion, and I held an internal debate as to whether or not I needed to walk over and straighten Mom’s feet for her. You see, her right ankle had done what it habitually does, weakening so that her foot leaned precariously to one side. What I knew was that this means she had been on her feet for too long, lessening her mobility and her flexibility. Sometimes she cannot feel the foot when it does this. But other times it is painful for her.
So as I watched, all I could do was worry about that foot and wonder if I should disturb the dance floor in order to walk over and readjust her feet.
Sometimes, I guess, the grit of life interferes with what would have been just a pretty picture. Because the harsh reality is that I cannot simply let go of my identity as a duty-driven eldest child. So as much as I longed to just treasure the moment for its beauty, I was powerless to manufacture those emotions. I envied my brother’s youthfully intense emotions, but it would be senseless now for me to waste energy regretting that which I no longer have the innocence to possess.
At the age of nine I grew old. And now, at the age of 28, I still find myself struggling, at times, with the daily realities of a life that is what it is, and not necessarily as it should be.
But you know, I don’t mind that so much. When it comes down to it, who really wants it all to be a bed of roses anyhow? It is only through weathering the storms that we can really savour the joys.
And so yesterday I decided against “fixing” my mother’s foot. I stayed right where I was, feeling what I felt—and marveling at what my brother felt. The moment was what it was . . . and that is exactly what it should have been.

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