I am wrist deep in raw eggs and ground turkey, basil, rosemary and thyme. The peach-colored meat squishes through my fingers as I mix it with the homemade breadcrumbs I just pulverized out of gluten-free pretzels. It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I am standing in my stinky morning workout clothes making turkey meatballs for dinner. I am telling you this because I do not like to cook. I do not enjoy the thinking up of a meal, the shopping for and prepping. I do not like managing the timeline of dinner, serving up various dishes nice and hot. I do not like begging my kids to please come to the table, not in a minute, but now. The day-long journey into dinner distracts me, pulling me away from a million other more important, more interesting, more pressing thoughts, endeavors and pursuits. It’s that annoying fly that won’t go away no matter how many times I swat at it.
Except somehow, today, it isn’t.
It’s been five days since the car accident.* For five days I’ve been moving in slo-mo, early to bed, waking groggy, a little headachy. For five days I’ve sobbed uncontrollably alone at the kitchen table and wept silently on the way to the bathroom. I’ve hugged each of my girls tightly and for too long, making them wonder what’s going on as I breathe into their long, clean-smelling hair. I’ve said “yes” instead of “maybe” and “just a minute” and “we’ll see.” I’ve leaned in to my husband’s broad chest and remembered all the good things he is. I’ve cancelled lunch plans and doctor’s appointments and stopped myself from filling up next week’s calendar and the next.
In this slowing down, I’ve thought a lot about my uncle. Two months ago, he found out that he has pancreatic cancer. I visited with him and my aunt last week – a beautiful visit on a sunny southern California day. I’d meant to fly down and take care of them – run errands, cook a meal, crack a few jokes – but they ended up taking care of me. They took me to Descanso Gardens, where we marveled at the blooming camellias, drank in tulips of every shade from claret to canary. Lilacs scented the air with their delicate perfume. I fingered blades of foreign, pink-striped grasses, wracked my brain for the name of a certain purple flowering plant (lupine) and inhaled a fresh arugula salad at the café.
Back at their house we ate some more because that’s what people do when life is thrown into stark relief and the line is drawn between the possible and the impossible. We eat for comfort and comradery, but most of all we eat for the power and courage to cross that line. Right now, for my uncle it’s difficult to eat, so we did it for him: bacon and maple flavored potato chips and Garden Salsa Sun Chips, chocolate chip cookies and Snickers bars, hummus and Israeli salads, baked chicken and baguette. Vodka tonics.
My aunt, who is caring and asking, advocating and scheduling, doling out meds and keeping us all in the loop, is an amazing, vibrant force. “This is my job,” she said, not with resentment or resignation, not with feigned enthusiasm or heavy-duty sadness. She said this as if it were her next logical assignment, because it is. This is the life she is living.
For five days now I’ve been thinking about the life I am living. What is my job, here, now? For so long I’ve gently refused to settle in to this life all the way, as though it’s some kind of way station to my real life, the one where cooking dinner, worrying about screen time and filling out camp forms doesn’t define me. The one where I have oodles of time to write and my thoughts aren’t stopped in their tracks by interrupting children and a vomit-prone dog, high-flying hormones and myriad must-dos.
I often feel as though I should be doing something else but life gets in the way. Really? Isn’t it the other way around? Shouldn’t life – caring, feeding, eating, listening, loving, saying “yes” – be what I’m doing and the rest of it be nonessential, hopefully pleasurable, add-ons? For today, my job is making turkey meatballs for dinner in the middle of the afternoon. Cooking for the people I love is not the worst job in the world. I’m not saying I’m applying for a full time position, just that in this moment, I am living my life, determined to cross over the line and into the possible.
*Neither I nor the other driver was hurt. Just a bit shaken up.
This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post where writers share their versions of a completed sentence. This week’s prompt is, “The things I’ve seen this morning…” and is hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee and co-hosted by Leanne Russell. One of the first things I saw yesterday morning, even before drinking my coffee, was two pounds of ground turkey in the fridge. The rest is history.