Thursday, November 07, 2013


The first sentence of a paragraph, as my grammar teachers used to say, prepares us for the content that will follow. These wise voices come to me across the years as I sit down to type, with my HOPE LADY fingers, a reflection on the happenings of the past week. I have been saying—no, face it I’ve been WHINING—about the terrible week we’ve had. Pity the person who casually asks: “How is your week so far?” That person is going to hear a tale of woe. Have I got a tale of woe to tell! It’s been a lousy week. Here is the evidence. There is a cold so attached to me that I fear we are permanent partners. The ground is covered with ice that makes crawling the safest way to avoid a fall. There’s a son who needs his mother’s love because he slipped on that ice and ended up with five stitches in his head. There’s a program that needs more of my time because a colleague is on stress leave. There’s a friend whose tea date had to be changed so that I could help a principal whose staff are devastated by the suicide of one of their own. There’s a plumber who has practically lived at our house lately because our heating system has decided to take a vacation. (Have you ever noticed how well heating systems tend to work in the summer?) There’s a whole night’s sleep gone forever while I kept a watch on the fireplace to ensure that the fire kept going. (How did they ever sleep in pioneer days?) All of this as we prepare for a trip that would truly be inconvenient not to mention expensive to cancel. All of this and even more has sprung to the tip of my tongue when people ask “How’s your week so far?” Why is it, I wonder, that in a bad week, the story of the badness so often steals the show? I’ve been thinking, I guess, that this has been a bad week, and that has been the first sentence of the paragraph. There are, of course, many perspectives on any given story. Here is another story about that same week, a story with a different opening sentence. Our children have chosen top-notch partners—people you’d be thrilled to welcome into your family. For evidence of this, I need only turn to my recent electronic communications. There is, for example a message on my iPhone. My daughter-in-law is out doing a few errands. If it is convenient for me, she could stop by and pick up Pirate. This will give us a couple of free hours that would have been spent taking Pirate to her house (his second home and first choice for a good time whenever we are out of town.) It is, of course, extremely convenient for me, and she knows it, but doesn’t say it. The email contains a message from our son-in-law—a man preparing to collect us at the airport some time around midnight. His refrigerator, he tells us, has been stocked with items selected to delight us: bacon, gluten free beer, chocolate milk. He hopes we are looking forward to our time with them. What he doesn’t say is that he is collecting us around midnight and will likely be up at 2:00 AM even though he is expected to be wakeful for work the next day. Now I wouldn’t want to leave things unsaid that should be said. It should be said that the electronic communications show a history of loving phone calls made by these wise children who chose top-notch partners. They called to chat, to update us on their news, to confirm plans, to ask if there is anything we need them to do. From among all the evidence, one indisputable conclusion emerges. A bad week is not such a bad week when you can count on a loving connection with children and their top-notch partners. Perhaps that should have been the first sentence of this story, but sometimes, when you sit down to reflect in writing, you don’t know what you really wanted to say until you get to the end.

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