Archie was supposed to participate in the Special Olympics Spring Games at Furman University today, but instead he’s home sick, watching television in the other room. Last night he started throwing up all over himself, all over me, all over his dad and all over our house. He’s stopped now, but he has big black circles under his eyes and he’s as white as a sheet of paper.
Yesterday afternoon we’d meticulously pieced together our family’s game plan for this morning. My dad would take a day off work, and he and my mom would swing by here to pick up Archie and drive him across town so he’d be assured to arrive at Furman on time. I’d take Kit and Jack to school at St. Mary Magdalene’s and then turn around and drive the seventeen miles to the college’s campus, pulling up in time for the opening ceremonies. My brother and his wife planned to join us as well to cheer Archie on and celebrate his abilities and potential. Archie would wear his Wheaties t-shirt, I’d planned, and the new sneakers my parents bought for him last weekend.
But this life, it had other plans.
While that’s disappointing, it also feels as if it’s an appropriate turn of events these days. Lately everything’s been coming in all askew and askance, turned sideways or upside-down or not turning out at all, no matter what. Sometimes that means events go better than I anticipated, or sometimes it means that they don’t or won’t or just plain can’t after all. I don’t know why things are happening this way, but I do know it makes me feel anxious. It’s as if I’ve found myself trapped between periods and commas and I’m not really sure which thought to follow through first.
I may be seeking out my transition, but I do know something about conclusions and yesterday I offered this thought as the dénouement to a conversation I was sharing with a friend: “If it’s not happy, then it’s not the end.”
This morning that friend came back to me and explained, “I was thinking about what you said and I disagree. I think sometimes it’s just the end.” And then he shrugged like he usually does when he says something he anticipates is beyond all objections and rebuttals, his arms extended with both palms turned upward, both elbows set on a different slope so neither is particularly perpendicular to his body.
I tried to argue with him, but his mind was made up and it was early and I was still sleepy and struggling to find the words I needed to speak about everything I wanted to say. We left it like that, he right and I wrong, but later in my car I thought about something I’d heard on the radio yesterday morning.
Forty years ago a group of friends concealed a car behind a brick wall in the basement of a house. The car stayed behind that wall until the new owner of the house discovered it while he was looking throw a hole in the bricks. It turns out that the car was buried simply as something to do when the friends received it from a car dealer they knew, after he acquired it from a man passing through town who couldn’t afford to pay for the necessary repairs to get the car going again after it broke down. They thought it would be funny, one of the friends explained to the reporter who covered the story. “All this time, we’ve been waiting.”
These periods and commas I’ve been trying to string together, they feel like a pause inserted in a sentence to give me time to consider the consequences of a statement. I feel anticipatory. I wonder if someday soon I’ll stumble through the routine of my day only to arrive at the end of one thought and the beginning of another, at a transition where someone will welcome me with an outstretched hand and say, smiling, “All this time, we’ve been waiting for you.”
But today Archie lays on his stomach in the thinking room, by the foot of a leather chair, glassy-eyed and drowsy. He’s not awake but he’s not really sleeping either. The television that’s turned on upstairs echoes the television that’s turned on downstairs, and from where Archie lies I know he can hear the Ferocious Beast and Mr. Shimmers speak a beat faster upstairs than they do downstairs.
In the hallway next to Archie is a discarded piece of drawing paper, one of the maps his brother drew last night. Upon it is a twisting, turning line connecting one corner of the paper to another, a beginning and an end marked by disproportionate dots scribbled in pencil. When I asked Jack where the map leads he answered earnestly, “No where.”
“No where?” I repeated, looking for clarification. “Don’t you mean somewhere?”
“Yeah, yeah. Somewhere,” Jack answered, shaking his head up and down. “Or maybe no where.”
Outside in our driveway my station wagon is covered by yellow pollen, as thick as a blanket. Underneath the car’s carriage the pollen floats like spiraling, stellar arms swirling around a singular puddle left behind by the sprinklers that irrigate our yard in the early dark of each morning.