There’s a wonderful scene toward the end of the 1989 film Parenthood when Grandma explains her love of the roller coaster to her grandson and his wife: “Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride…..It was just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled altogether.” Steve Martin (the grandson) responds with sarcasm, but his wife, played by Mary Steenburgen, thinks Grandma is brilliant, and so do I, especially lately when the roller coaster is moving faster than usual with outrageous plunges and daring climbs.
“Life comes at you point blank,” Ken has been telling me for years, and this summer I’m both overwhelmed and astonished by the truth of this. Grown kids moving in to prepare to move out again. Car loans in both senses of the word “loan” (lending our cars to various children and helping one apply for a car loan). Insanely intense happenings at my main place of employment that put me on and then push me off the edge of my seat. The high of finishing a final draft of a novel I’ve been writing for eight years. The sudden arrival of Sidney the kitten. The wild adventures, mostly involving the kitchen, of Shay the dog. The arranging of plans more complex than a Rube Goldberg contraption. A whole lot of groceries, dishes, laundry and, as becomes summer in Kansas, over-the-top heat days that seep into just-bearable humid nights.
There are two ways to ride a roller coaster: scared and trying to protect yourself from the drops and speed that will shake you regardless, or with big-time abandon. I’m telling myself to raise my arms high for the thrill of the fall, which roughly translates into trying to find all the humor and tenderness I can in such moments. I’m reminding myself to take in the scenery as we rise back up.
“Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around, nothing,” said Grandma in Parenthood. “I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”