Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In A Heartbeat

I recently watched a documentary that a son made about the 50 year marriage of his mother and father. They lived in a conservative town in the mid-west. The film was originally intended, in some way, to honor the relationship, it’s enduring, and endearing qualities. It’s success, but also it’s ups and downs. The son was looking for honesty, but expecting a loving and honorable relationship he could illuminate for the world, and for himself. It would also serve the purpose of validating his own commitment to his wife and family, his own chosen road, and reinforcing for himself that, even through the hard times, he made the right choice in his own life. That choice being ‘to do as his parents had done’. And to do it well. He knew his parent’s marriage was not perfect, but he did view it as remarkably ordinary, and although it was something he feared for himself, it was also something he actually wanted for himself.

The son conducted on-camera interviews with his mother and father over an extended period of time. He interviewed his two sisters as well. During the making of the documentary his mother became suddenly ill and died within three weeks of contracting the illness. To everyone’s shock and surprise his father, during the making of the documentary, married his former secretary just three months after the death of his wife. To make matters worse, the father emptied, and moved out of, the home where they’d lived all those years and moved to Florida to start his new life. The family and friends were stunned, to say the least.
Everything changed for them in a heartbeat.

I work with developmentally disabled adults, conducting a recreation, socialization and mobility class on a medical unit of a large campus. The unit is a satellite existence unto itself. Some really good people make it their home away from home for 8 hours every day. I work part time, but participate in, and absorb, the climate, and the social dynamics of the workplace. Dedicated, hard working and loving people populate the unit. But there have been some rough stretches, as there is with any family or group of people. There had been measurable tension on the unit for a long time. It revolved around a particular individual. It involved a social duplicity, and an underhandedness, and it was affecting, and infecting, the whole environment. Eventually some young, and very courageous, staff members dealt with the situation, directly, and through the proper channels. I provided them support. It was not easy for them. It never is for someone who puts themselves on the line. But it was for the good of the whole, and the situation got resolved. One day the tension was palpable. The next day it was gone, as a great sigh of relief rose from the very foundation of the building.
Everything changed in a heartbeat.

My brother died a year ago. He was the latest in a long line of people I have loved and lost. That is not unique to me. Most people lose people along the way. It happens. We don’t like it, but we make the best of it. We find ways to make the loss tolerable, the pain less painful, the memory more comforting. But the loss remains, nevertheless.
My brother was here. And then he was not here.
Everything changed in a heartbeat.