Giáo trình

The Healing Tree


Chapter 23

Tác giả: unknown

“East or west? Should I go to Stanford or Duke?”

Robbie was talking about college. I was thinking about Mark and Maggie. No, actually I was thinking about loss. Mark and Maggie were gone, and now Robbie was getting ready to leave. But then I realized what I was really thinking about was loneliness. I’d finally gotten adjusted to my new life in the house that Robbie had worked so hard to make wheelchair-accessible, and now he was now getting ready to leave. And then I saw that under it all, I was really thinking about myself. Once again, despite my best efforts to rise above myself, when the last peel of the onion fell away, there was my own self right smack at the core. How can you lose yourself to find yourself if your self always finds a way to insinuate itself right back into the center of yourself? “How do you answer a question like that?”

The look on Robbie’s face told me that, without meaning to, I’d said the words out loud. “I don’t know, Mom. That’s why I asked you.”

“I’m sorry, Robbie, I guess I was sort of daydreaming.”

“Imagine that,” Robbie said with a bit of a chuckle.

“Imagine that,” I echoed. I had a memory flash of Andy Brennan telling me how Job’s healing process had started when he stopped thinking about his own problems, and instead prayed for his friends. Perhaps, I thought, you find yourself by losing yourself in the quest to help others find themselves. Or at least in helping your son figure out where he should go to college.

I pulled a yellow pad from the pouch on the side of my wheelchair and laid it on my lap. Then I drew a straight line across the top, and a vertical line down the center of the page, forming a big letter T. At the top of the page, in block letters, I printed the word “Duke” and underlined it twice. “Remember what Dad used to do when he had to make a difficult decision?”

“You mean the T-off?”

“Yes. Why don’t we do a T-off for the pluses and minuses of each coast?” As I was speaking, I wrote the words “plus” and “minus” on the left- and right-hand sides of the T. “Let’s start with Duke. What are the pluses? And leave out basketball. If you’re going to be a doctor, you won’t have time for that.”

“There’s always time for basketball,” Robbie said with a nod and a smile, “so put that down first in the plus column.” The T-off took the better part of the afternoon. When we’d finished, I handed both sheets of paper to Robbie. He studied the pages for a while, going back and forth between the two. Then he folded them up and put them into his shirt pocket.

“Mr. Foreman,” I asked, “has the jury reached a verdict?”

“We have, your honor,” he replied solemnly.

“Will you please share that verdict with the court?”

“Yes, ma’am, I will.” Robbie stood up, took a deep breath, then belted out California Here We Come! as he danced around the room. Stanford had won.

That evening, I made a cup of hot chocolate and parked my wheelchair on the back porch. It had become my late summer evening ritual, watching the afternoon fade away while waiting for the fireflies to make their appearance. I was reading one of the McZen books that Maggie had left me: What Is the Sound of One Hand Praying? Turning a page, I read:

The Lord works

In mysterious ways

And usually without

A sense of urgency

Setting the book down on my lap, I thought about the strange journey of life. Had it not been for that devastating accident, I would not have become a poetry therapist. Robbie might not have set his sights on becoming a doctor. Andy Brennan had been right. The path would unfold slowly, often torturously, and you would never see more than a step or two ahead. But if you just kept walking, why, you just might walk yourself right into a miracle. Or two.

One by one, the fireflies begin to claim their place in the backyard firmament. In ancient cultures, they might have been seen as the luminous souls of the departed. One by one, Mark, then Maggie, now Robbie – the three people I had most depended upon – had left me. And now, like fireflies in a meadow, one by one, new questions were intruding upon my consciousness.

When the mosquitoes started coming out in force, I wheeled myself back into the kitchen and reheated my hot chocolate in the microwave. As I waited for the chime, I opened McZen’s book to a random page, which Maggie had told me was the best way to read a book of poetry, because that way you’d never finish it. It was surprising, really, how often these poets seemed to be speaking directly to me through whatever poem I happened to chance upon. Here’s what McZen had to say as the fireflies danced into the embers of evening:

If you don’t have a question

You don’t have a clue

If you aren’t searching

You must really be lost

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