“Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
For the straight way was lost.”
Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy
I’m amazed at how succinctly poetry captures the essence of existence. Though expressed in the 13th century, and though Burton and I are well past midway in our journey, Dante’s thoughts apply.
Almost five years ago, a brain tumor and surgery left Burton physically and cognitively challenged. Hardly the retirement he envisioned– golfing daily with pals, later celebrating or bemoaning birdies or bogeys over bottles of beer.
As poet Robert Burns so aptly put it: “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men / Gang aft a-gley.”
Aft a-gley for Burton means rolling around the neighborhood in an electric wheelchair. And watching the Masters and every other PGA tournament on TV.
Some days this injustice to such a good man really hurts my heart. On those days, High Noon cocktails help, though I dare not indulge at the hour for which they’re named. Writing about our travails helps, too.
Friends and readers know of my challenges. I’ve documented a marriage crisis and a cancer crisis in books. Writing Back from Betrayal and GodSigns gave some meaning to my suffering. Knowing these stories help others helps me as well.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I began meditating. 12 minutes every morning seemed a doable commitment. I engage in both a counting and a breathing practice. I finish with prayer, since life is scary. I take all the help I can get.
When my thoughts are too bleak to unload on even the best of friends, I turn to my laptop. I have a new one these days. The B key on my old one stopped working—a strange coincidence.
I decided my new laptop deserved a name. I’m calling her Shirley, as in: This, too, surely will pass. My BFF Brenda’s adored mother-in-law was Shirley Rosenberg. My mother’s friend was Shirley Mopper. My friend is Shirley Piku. All good people.
So Shirley she is.
Thank you, Shirley, for hearing me out on my darkest days. For neither judging nor trying to help or fix me. For just listening. Sometimes that’s all I need.
The B in my life, with whom I recently celebrated our 56th anniversary, refuses to give up. He works out with an upright walker several times a day and remains mostly cheerful. He spends time calling others to see how they are faring.
If Burton won’t give up, neither will I.
On his death bed, the poet Seamus Heaney quoted a Latin biblical passage to his wife: Noli temere. Don’t be afraid. We’ll continue trying to live by those words.
And if you, dear reader, are navigating your own dark woods, I hope you will, too.
Love hearing your journeys.
Oh Suzy. To live with such zest. And travel unforeseen roads with grace and dignity. The difficult moments are what friends can help you navigate. So glad Shirley came into your life. I have a Shirley, too. I named her Grace. Be well, dear friend. And congratulations on the anniversary!
Grace is another perfect name. Thanks for the wisdom. You remain my finest plane pal! ?