Wednesday, February 13, 2008
If I Only Had Twelve Months To Live
If I only had 12-months to live what would I do?
I’d leave the doctor’s office numb, stunned. I’d stop and stare at the handicapped parking spots and wonder why I wasn’t given a handicapped sticker. Is impending death not a handicap? Does it not come with some special privileges? If nothing else a decent parking spot? A place in the front of the line? I’d continue to my car, still numb. I must’ve done something horrific in a previous life. This must be hell. Once home I’d break down, sobbing, snot rolling down my face and wiped up with my sleeve. Like a petulant child I’d stomp my feet and scream, “I DON’T WANT TO DIE!” Then I’d start to clean. I’d make it into the kitchen and see the rice cooker with dried out crusty rice, a glass of half drunk lemonade, a sink full of dishes and I’d know I failed. I’d absolutely failed at this life. I couldn’t even provide my family with a peaceful clean living environment, let alone, teach them to provide it for themselves. The knock down drag out bawling would start anew. I’d resume cleaning determined to organize the whole house top to bottom and keep it that way.
I’d call work and tell them I was deathly ill and I could no longer come in, even if it wasn’t wholly true. I would not want to waste another single minute away from my family. I’d haul loads of stuff to the Goodwill; all but the most comfortable clothes in my closet, the old TV stand in the garage, the torn apart couch in my son’s room. I’d trade them in for any and every intact board game available. I might pick up a few books while I was at it, especially ones I could read to the kids.
I’d cook every night, except Friday which would be date night. My kids would rotate through the kitchen learning to cook. We’d make homemade pasta - corn tortelli with tarragon butter, crab ravioli in a red pepper cream sauce. We’d bake bread - chocolate cherry beer bread, ciabatta rolls and sourdough starts. We’d explore the world with our culinary endeavors; Asia, Russia, Africa, South America, India. I’d put a map in the kitchen. We’d mark all the places we’d sampled. We’d research these foreign lands as we cooked - the beauty of the internet and a laptop computer. I’d also make fresh muffins for breakfast and fill the house with cookie aroma every day after school. I’d start a book of our favorite recipes and attach little notes; anecdotes of our adventures in cooking.
I’d plan a trip to someplace exotic, someplace I’d never been. A place with a different culture and history and green, green plants. Maybe Vietnam. We’d go for at least a month. I’d pull the kids from school to travel during non-tourist periods. We’d avoid big hotels instead choosing small local establishments. We’d bury ourselves into the culture not just observing like visitors in a zoo but experiencing. We’d take lots and lots of pictures.
Of course, when not traveling, I would insist the kids continue their studies and attend school. I’d straighten the house while the kids were at school which wouldn’t take long because it was done every day. Then I’d take long walks listening to the ipod, Norah Jones, U2, Snoop Dog. I’d listen to everything but country. I’d always have one or two dogs by my side. They’d be off-leash, running up the trail to explore and checking back periodically. I’d flip off the old man who yelled at me about the leash law. I’d tell him life was too short to be such a crab ass and suggest that he get laid.
Afterwards I’d come home and write. I’d write every day, without fail. I’d write to my children. I’d tell them about my childhood growing up in the desert. I’d recount how I met their father. I’d tell them my dreams for their futures. I’d go to the dark places too; the time my younger sister beat me, pounded me, in the bathroom while my parents were at work; the time I opened up my cockatiel’s egg thinking it was a dud, only to discover the baby bird was still alive and me sitting helpless in the backyard watching it die.
When the kids got home we’d sit down together and do homework; me writing, them schoolwork. We’d make dinner and eat at the table. Tuesdays and Thursdays we’d go to family yoga, one that emphasizes meditation and living simply in the moment. Mondays and Wednesdays would be game night. Fridays, of course, date night.
On date night my husband and I would go to dinner. We’d linger over good food and good wine. We’d walk downtown, hand-in-hand, window shopping. I’d tell him it was okay for him to move on with his life. It’s okay to love again. All that I truly want out of this world is for my family to be happy; to live, to love, to embrace life, to accept sorrow and defeat with grace, to seek the beauty in even the darkest moments. I’d hope and pray he find peace and serenity, if not for his sake for our children’s.
Saturdays the kids would cook breakfast. We’d eat in front of the tv watching political shows. Then we’d head outside, playing frisbee golf, going to the park, hiking, relaxing at the pool. Sundays we’d go out to breakfast, walking downtown along the pond, feeding the ducks. We’d admire the swans, so beautiful and yet so mean. We’d agree we’d rather be a plain amiable wood duck. After breakfast we’d walk to the flower stand and buy a fresh bouquet for the week. I’d always have fresh flowers in my house. Sunday afternoons would be reserved for reading; each person their own book. Drawing would also be allowed. Sunday nights - music, an instrument for everyone. Let the neighbors suffer. Life's too short to care.
I've just described my ideal twelve months. If I were truly sick I'd probably not be able to do all the things I'd like (except maybe quit my job). Now is the time to make a change. My real life is far from this ideal. But for two days in a row I’ve written something down. Last night my son helped to make dinner. My bedroom and bathroom are clean. The laundry is in reasonable proximity to being finished. There are fresh flowers on my table. Baby steps towards the life I want to live. I need to live my best life today. Because, really, I could die tomorrow. Thank you Jen B. for the reality check. You are more amazing than you’ll ever know.