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I know the speed limit is only 40 km/h, but I find myself itching to hit the gas pedal just a little bit more. But I know there are boys in striped T-shirts and shorts on roller blades just around the next corner, with hockey nets and tennis balls, teaching their little brothers how to play road hockey.
A little girl on a pink bike with Barbie streamers is tottering dangerously, her tongue off to the side of her mouth as she practices without training wheels, her mom right beside her.
I’m coming home.
And as I inch towards my house–it’s easy to spot, as we’re the only one with a bright red car on our street of all beige and black vehicles–I can’t wait to jump out and hug my kids and hug my husband. One of the best things about coming home is having someone to come home to.
Last weekend I taught the speaking track at the Canadian Christian Writers’ Conference in Guelph. It was a wonderful time, and I met some great people, including a few I’ll likely introduce you to over the next few weeks. I always come back inspired and grateful for all the networking. Yet all the amazing people in the world cannot compare to the three wonderful ones who are waiting for me on my front porch.
It is good not to be alone.
At times I am so happy and filled to the brim with love that I think I will burst. But those times seem always sprinkled with sadness that others do not share the same joy. While on the road I ate at some fast food restaurants, I have to admit, and when there I did something I rarely do anymore–I picked up a newspaper and read it. And everything had to with tragedy–children who had been stabbed or shot, children who had been murdered by parents, children who had hung themselves, young women killed in a drunk driving accident. There is so much tragedy.
And among all the tragedy are the tawdry divorces. Just as tragic, really, but in other ways.
My mother endured a divorce. My father left for greener pastures, and my mother raised me alone. When you are a child, you don’t think of what it is like for your mother to be alone. You only think of the hole in your own life, but you don’t think of the hole that is in hers. This week our children went through something tricky with friends, and I had to make a decision on how we were going to handle it. But I didn’t make it alone, because my husband was there to bounce ideas off of and finally to come down hard on one side. Had I had to make the decision alone, I likely would have vacillated for much longer. It is hard to raise a teenager alone.
I know another family whose 14-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with bone cancer. She also has small lesions on her lungs. They call it the “Terry Fox” cancer, a reference most Canadians will know. I have felt just sick for them for the last two weeks. And yet they are not alone. They have family; the parents are married; and many from Katie’s school have shaved their heads in solidarity. When we go through difficult things, it is good not to be alone.
Almost all major tragedies are made so much worse when we endure them alone. And indeed, the root of many such tragedies is family breakdown. Those who grow up in a home without dads are far more likely to turn to crime; and those who grow up in a family without dad are far more likely to be victims of crime. Everything is exacerbated. And then, when something really bad does happen, you have far fewer resources to see you through.
When I was 16, I came home from my part-time job one night at 6:30 to find my mother in a ball, shrunken, on the corner of the couch. When I walked in the door, she straightened herself up, smiled a weak smile, and then asked me to come sit down beside her. And as I did, she told me that she had been to the doctor that day, and they had found cancer. She would be having a mastectomy in three days’ time. It was a large enough tumour that they were sure it had spread.
I was an only child to a single mom, and my mom was telling me that she was likely dying. And what did I do? I sniffled a little bit with her, gave her a hug, and then fled that apartment, got on a subway, and went to my best friend’s house to talk it out. When you’re 16, you need a friend. And I left my mother in a ball.
My mother’s cancer hadn’t spread. A few years ago, for her twentieth anniversary, we threw a “Glad you’re not dead” party. Some thought it was in poor taste; but Mom and I both thought it was hilarious, because I am very glad she’s not dead. And yet there are images I will never forget of that time: her lying in pain in the hospital bed, trying to look brave, when I came in during my lunch break from high school. Her being wheeled into surgery, with her two sisters on either side of her bed before they had to turn back. Her talking to the doctor, by herself, because there was nobody else there to talk to the doctor with her. And my mother, all curled in a ball.
It is not good to be alone.
I watched the movie “It’s Complicated” a while ago when my husband was away on business, and I found it actually quite sad, and true to life. It’s not a very clean movie, and I felt it was too graphic in some of its conversation. But the emotion it portrays is so true to life. At one point, the 60-year-old woman, whose husband left her ten years ago, has finally built her life back up, and she is now remodeling her kitchen. After going over all the plans, she leaves the room, only to come back in quickly.
“One last thing,” she says to the designer. “No his and her sinks.”
He challenges her on this, asking if maybe in the future there may be need of a “his”.
“I have his and her sinks now,” she says. “And everytime I look at them, I feel sad.”
It is not good to be alone.
God can bring people who are alone much comfort, and He can make them stronger and teach them to rely on Him. But I do not think that is His plan. We are meant to be live in community; ideally that means marriage, but if not marriage, at least some kind of close community. I sometimes look at the single people I know and wish so desperately to play Emma, to matchmake for some of these dear ones who live alone and should not have to.
Perhaps they are content with their lives, and I am reading too much into it. My mother has a rich life, though some would still call her alone. And death can steal those we love from us. Life happens.
And if we are alone because of death, at least we have memories. But to be alone because of betrayal and rejection is very difficult. And it is not His plan. To be alone because you have never found anyone to love I don’t believe is His plan, either. It is getting so hard to find mates today, in our world where people have fewer and fewer social circles. It is hard to find close friends when people are increasingly moving to an online world. And so too many are stuck with being alone.
Alone in a world of roller blades and pink Barbie bikes. Alone in a world of hospitals and shootings and stabbings. And it makes me glad for the three waiting for me, on my front porch. I wish I could bottle this up and share it.