I’m joining forces with a throng of bloggers today in a shout out for Susie Lindau who is currently undergoing a double mastectomy in Colorado. (You can read about it here.) Susie is the queen of our blogging hearts, a hostess extraordinaire, who knows how to live large and live well. Plus, she throws the very best parties!
Today, and in days to come, she needs all the love, strength and best wishes we can all muster. That she is a formidable woman, strong enough to kick cancer’s ass on her own is without question. But, why go it alone when you can have friends along on this particular wild ride?
So, Susie — this one’s for you, my friend. You’ve got a mighty big group of friends who can’t wait to have you back where you belong: wild-riding, dancing, photo-bombing, juggling flower pots, and generally just being your joy-filled, cancer-free self again.
It was a myth, of course. But still. When the end came he imagined going out like an elephant, lumbering off into the wild, away from others. Away from family and friends (well-meaning as they were). Dying should be a solitary thing.
Be careful what you wish for, someone pointed out. He might have listened, but he was young.
The change began slow enough, initially. By the time he realized, it was too late. He cursed about the unfairness of it. He drank too much, and smoked excessively. Eventually, he saw that struggle was futile, and he accepted the inevitability.
After that, his spine stiffened and lost flexibility. His neck took on girth. Was his head bigger? It was harder to move it. Even nodding felt awkward and uncomfortable. Surely, his ears had grown — his hearing was so much more acute. It was spring, and a million birds were whistling . . . warbling . . . chirping. Each call clear and distinct from the other. He could hear the hum of bees that swarmed around the lilacs in his neighbor’s yard.
The noise of it made his head hurt.
His skin became grayer and felt thicker. He noticed that he was more sensitive to sunlight. He wanted nothing so much as to wallow in a pool, but there had been no rain for weeks. The sky remained cloudless, the sun unrelenting in its persistence. So, he rolled up his pant legs (this movement, like so many other things, was becoming increasingly difficult to perform). He took his time at the task. Then he dragged a hose into his back yard and filled his unplanted garden with water. He let the cold water from the hose wash over his head and his back while the mud from his garden rose up his ankles. It was a moment sweet with joy.
Take it where it comes, he thought. He knew, above all, that much was true.
When the transformation was nearly complete, he found that his clothes didn’t fit him anymore. His arms and legs were ponderous, hulking appendages that he could no longer articulate without effort. It might have been more bearable if his mind had also been altered, but that was not the case. His was a young man’s brain in a body that didn’t fit.
All he lacked was a trunk.
There was nothing to do but wait for the last, most useful part of his new self. The thing that would make all the other parts work the way they should. At last, his patience was rewarded. He had it all. He raised his trunk and let forth a mighty trumpet blast. As he stood at the precipice of waiting, he saw the place where he would go: A fern-floored forest where sunlight split the top of the trees and shone rose-colored on one massive tree. His tabernacle.
His solitary thing.
n.b. I was intrigued by this week’s DP challenge on Metamorphosis, the purpose of which was to write about a transformation of human to animal form. It made me remember a conversation I had many years ago with someone I loved. It had to do with elephants.
It started because we all wanted a seat on the couch.
As is often the case in large families, there weren’t always enough places to sit. The living room in our house had enough space for two large arm chairs and a couch. My parents got the arm chairs, we kids had to fight for a piece of the sofa. We could squeeze four of us without touching — a key element to relatively peaceful TV watching. That left three kids on the floor.
Like all good families we had rules. Number one rule on TV night: if you were lucky enough to get a seat on the sofa (first come, first served), you were good. But, if you got up for anything you HAD to say, “I get this seat when I get back.” And say it loud enough to be clearly heard. Otherwise, you lost that prime spot to the quickest kid on the floor.
We were a scrappy, contentious lot, but we were honorable. As long as you played by the rule, your place would be waiting after you went to the bathroom or got your drink. If you forgot to say the phrase, though, all bets were off.
Surprisingly, there were plenty of times that one of us would forget, and we would try to wheedle our way back into that still-warm spot, hoping that everyone else had missed the fact that we hadn’t said anything. But there was always someone who knew you hadn’t and an argument would ensue.
One night my father put his foot down. He forbade us to say “I get this seat when I get back”. Never again, he said. My father always meant what he said.
This was a problem. We would no longer have a modicum of control over where we sat and for how long. Without our rule there would be constant seat stealing and chaos. What were we to do?
. . . . and yet a true creator is necessity, which is the mother of our invention Plato wrote in The Republic. Plato was a pretty smart guy.
In our case, necessity led to the invention of mongwa. My brother Jaime its creator.
We slipped that word into the matrix of our family life so smoothly my father didn’t notice at first. One word is so much shorter, ergo, less noticeable than eight. By the time he did notice, I think he actually thought it was pretty clever, so the word stayed. It moved beyond the living room and into the kitchen, the dining room, the porch steps — any situation where there were more people than places to sit.
Decades have rolled by since mongwa entered our lexicon. Now it’s as much a part of our family as our DNA. We all still use it, though its necessity is seldom the point. It’s a secret handshake, a wink, a nod. An acknowledgement. We were kids once in a fractious family and we lived to tell the tale. Most of us. Two brothers are no longer here. Still, they were part of it and saying mongwa brings it all back and we are kids again. We remember.
But every once in awhile it still means the same thing. I get this seat when I get back.