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Caught in Snatches

“What if…what if heaven IS real, but only in moments? Like a glass of water on a hot day when you’re DYING of thirst, or when someone’s nice to you for no reason or…”

A group of friends is reading and discussing The Bone Clocks. This passage, in which one main character philosophizes about a fleeting, everyday theory of heaven, prompts one of them to pose a question to the group that the book had obviously had her pondering: do you ever wonder why we are here?

Every single day. Multiple times. Since I was like 10, maybe earlier. I remember lying in the dark at night, trying as hard as I could to separate some aspect of me, any aspect of me, from the bone clock of my body, desperately wanting to soar out into the night to zoom around superhuman and free. Who didn’t? After a few attempts, it would have been good enough just to lift off an inch, maybe turn around and look down at my body, to have just an imperfect shred of success.

Eventually, a personal peace with questions like that has to emerge, a peace effective enough to keep the gut from wrenching at a lack of answers. People find that peace in lots of places. Focusing too much on wanting things you don’t have (like an astral-projected version of yourself that flies through walls and haunts your perceived enemies) or on losing things that you do (nothing is permanent) wastes time and energy. If you can avoid wallowing around in those cesspools for too long, maybe, just maybe, you will enjoy, truly enjoy, a moment here or there.

“…S’pose heaven’s not like a painting that’s just hanging there forever but more like…like the best song anyone ever wrote, but a song you only catch in snatches, while you’re alive, from passing cars or…upstairs windows when you’re lost…”

I don’t know if I think about such things more often now that I am older and have kids, but I do know that my feelings surrounding the lack of clear answers are often much more acute. Before, I felt like the center of gravity for my life was inside me, whatever “me” is. Now, it is clearly not. Even though I knew that would be the case before I became a parent — old as I was and gay as I am, nature certainly didn’t trick me with a random fling into having children — it is unsettling nonetheless. Maybe the only real form of astral projection in life is to have your center tugged out of “you” by your children.

Before kids, it was much easier to minimize wanting the things that you don’t have and fearing the loss of the things that you do when the things that you wanted were only for yourself and when the things that you feared losing were not your own children. Most times, it’s not so easy any more. With parenthood, I would definitely say, come more intense moments of joy, yes, true, but, for me, there are also moments of incredibly sharp pain, moments of out-of-nowhere sudden panic. Maybe it’s a song on the radio that will hammer home that life is a wheel of change, unstoppably rolling along, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t reach out to slow it, much less stop it. Or maybe you listen to some beautifully innocent, childish banter in the other room, and your mind casts forward to all of the potentials of life, many of them hard only in your imagination, some of them really and truly hard, that will come along when you aren’t there for them, you can’t be there for them, you shouldn’t be there for them, in any way but spirit. Sometimes these moments, when the bottom suddenly drops out of my stomach, pass just as quickly as they appeared, but sometimes they just fade slowly into a deep, throbbing ache. There is no control to exert, little protection to lend, few definitive answers to impart, and any answers that you have that used to calm your own nerves in the past seem less brilliant than they once were. The fact of these beings’ existence has magnified it all somehow.

Why are we here? Among the many other things that it brings, parenthood definitely gives a sharp twist to that little knife of a question.

D: Guys, did you see the amaryllis blooming out back?
F: What’s a amryllis?
D: Come on, guys, come on, let me show you. You guys didn’t even tell me that the amaryllis was blooming out back.
C: What, Daddy?
D: You didn’t even tell me! So, how am I supposed to know!? Come on!
F/C: Okay.
D (standing in front of it): See!

They smile from Daddy to the plant.

F: Wow, Daddy, that’s pretty.
C: Is the flower from Christmastime?
D: It is, Cory Bee, it is.
C: Wow.

Their smiles last another heavenly moment before the morning throbs along.

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