a dichotomy of time

“There are two kinds of light –
the glow that illuminates,
and the glare that obscures.”

James Thurber

the-melting-watch
( melting clock, 1954, Salvador Dali)

It was almost 31 years ago and I was soon to turn 26.
I can remember it like it was yesterday.
It was around 9PM
I was just merging from the downtown connector onto I20—heading west,
It would be about an 80 minute or more drive home.
Mother had just recently turned 53.
She had been in the hospital now for about 4 weeks…
and they had finally just diagnosed her with an aggressive lung cancer
that had already metastasized throughout her body.

I was tired, weary and devastated but intent and focused on driving.
I spoke out loud in a wavering voice, flat and matter of fact…
“I know I’m probably going to mad at you before this is all over”
Because I knew none of this would go well and that when it was all over,
I would be left stripped bare of both heart and soul.
And I knew that in my eventual frustration, God would take the brunt.

I was correct.

I did get mad and also very lost…
for about the next 8 years, I was lost unto myself.
I was on a inward downward spiral turning my back away slowly
from a life sustaining relationship…
And at times I didn’t even realize what I was swirling down into….
Yet it took what seemed a lifetime of getting myself back together.
Seeking and needing both healing and Grace.

It came, slowly, painfully and almost devastatingly ending… but come it blessedly did.
Life like an onion–layer upon layer of stripping away self destruction.
Known to no one but myself.

Fast forward to last Saturday.

I’d spent the day with Dad.
Helping the caregiver clean him, bodily functions no longer self controlled,
as he withered with pain at each turn, touch and move.
Seeing more of poor ol’ Dad to last a life time…
I administered the morphine.
He had asked my son to bring him the movie Hacksaw Ridge because he wanted to see
it before he died.
We all sat together watching it.
I readied to head home as I was feeling sick.
Not the kind of sick from catching a bug but rather
a deep down inside sick.
I left them to their movie.

I felt the hot stinging tears fighting for release before I merged onto the interstate.

I made my way over to my far left lane when the flood started.
On and off it ebbed and flowed for my 75 minute drive home.
Sorrow mingled with the melancholy of recalled memories.

But the difference between Saturday and that lone night 30 years ago…
Time.

Time filled with a continuation of both healing and Grace.
Gone is that youthful resentment and anger.
Replaced rather by a solemn resignation and acceptance of the inevitable.
But not in a negative defeatist sense…
rather with a sense of determination while standing
in the face of the storm and knowing I won’t succumb to the maelstrom and tumult.

Feeling shored up by something greater than myself.

It is the now the reality of the ‘is what it is’ of living and dying.

Does it make any of this any easier?
No.
It’s just a hard time.
Hard in a myriad of ways as there are many more involved that
require my attention, my decisions, my time, my words…
and there’s just not enough of me for all of the this and thats….

…and there are still those nagging ruptured discs, slowing me down.

Yet through all the tears and the stretching beyond imagine of this single self…
driving with the flow of the breakneck speeds, focusing on the road ahead
through swimming eyes, I feel a presence…not in some sort of otherworldliness…
but rather a steeliness that is silently yet relentlessly there…
ready to catch me when I finally let go, and fall—
because before it’s all said and done, I will fall…
There is this knowledge of a force which is allowing the heartbreak and overwhelming drowning
to flow,
all the while, being ready to steady me when the time finally comes.

And in that car on that late Saturday afternoon, I suddenly hear my own trembling voice…
uttering ancient words…
words of acknowledgement of the One to whom it is I cling….

“for you are my refuge, my portion…”

I cry to you, Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”

Psalm 142:5

Dali and Age…odd? Yes.

“Let the labyrinth of wrinkles be furrowed in my brow with the red-hot iron of my own life, let my hair whiten and my step become vacillating, on condition that I can save the intelligence of my soul – let my unformed childhood soul, as it ages, assume the rational and esthetic forms of an architecture, let me learn just everything that others cannot teach me, what only life would be capable of marking deeply in my skin!”
― Salvador Dalí

DSC01242
(photograph: a bowl of nicely aged peppers)

Salvador Dali, to some art lovers (and my former students), is considered indeed one of the “great” artists of modern time. He help heralded the Surrealist movement to the forefront of the art world during the mid 20th century. Dali, however, is not credited with necessarily birthing Surrealism, but was rather the artist who seems best remembered for the role he played in it’s advancements.

Surrealism was actually born in Zurich in the early 20th century at the onset of World War I, under the blanket of the DaDa movement. A basic escape from conventional art, literature and thought–with a step into the world of the absurd– all full of youthful angst, disillusionment, a world war, political unrest and creative unhappiness. It was tongue and cheek, a youthful flight from the tried and true norm of the time. I am not a fan, but my students were always drawn to the allure of the DaDa and Surrealist movements– as to Dali in particular.

There is a certain curiosity to Dali’s work. It certainly draws the viewer into the canvas. Be it his bizarre combinations or the odd placement of subject matter, the exaggerations of human or animal forms, or his peculiar take on a historical event–all of which are portrayed in his paintings– to his even more bizarre and eccentric behavior during his lifetime— my kids love(d) Dali. He was always a favorite to imitate, explore and study. They even enjoyed the old black and white Youtube clips of Mike Wallace’s 1958 interview with Dali. Of which I find ridiculous, as he (Dali) appears simply daft–poor Mike Wallace.

I did stumble upon this Dali quote today. I am also feeling a bit ancient of body as I am still dragging around this blasted air-boot cast on my leg. Noticing the dried peppers as I was cleaning up the kitchen, I decided I was feeling pretty much how they looked, wrinkled and worn out. I remembered the quote and thought it aptly summed up my current mood. But in pairing Dali with my mood, perhaps all is not lost as there is truly a bit of the absurd involved—giving way to Dali’s ability of not taking things (or in my case, myself) too seriously. One thing I will give him credit for–even if I think him more of a nutcase, his ability to not take life too seriously—sometimes I just need reminding…Thank you Señor Dali.