Kansas was singing “Carry On, My Wayward Son” with all their heart on my car radio as I stood outside the car, having accidentally locked myself out of a vehicle that makes locking oneself out just about impossible. It was dark, misting rain with an edge of ice, and my cell phone and AAA card were in that car, smiling up at me from my warm, happy purse. Given the kind of week I’ve been having, this moment barely rated although it was wickedly inconvenient, made even more so when, inside the nearby grocery store, I couldn’t reach my husband, the only person with another key to my rock-and-roll singing car.
“Whatever,” told myself as I went back out with a coat hanger, only to find the car impossible to penetrate. I turned to go back to the store when a chirpy clerk rushed out to me. My husband called back the number calling him, and he was on his way. So I returned to the dark, hands in pockets, and rocked on my feet.
In the last week, I’ve driven through what feels like charcoal tunnels of night to arrive at one ICU or another to be with people I love who’ve been hugging the edge of close calls. My mother-in-law is doing much better after giving us quite a scare, and I look forward to seeing her soon. My dear friend Jerry has been on a ventilator, fighting many health issues, and may be doing better. That’s the thing about being in critical condition, one doctor told us: it’s a roller coaster ride, and you don’t know where and how it ends.
Meanwhile, there is voice and touch, waiting and sitting, pulling back the give-me-a-clear-answer thoughts to dwell in the open air. “Anything can happen,” I told one of Jerry’s sisters this morning. “That’s what makes life so interesting,” she said.
Life has been very interesting, including the moments of utter tender beauty and connection, like when, alone with Jerry for a few hours recently one night, I played him song after song from my phone. He opened his eyes wide for James Taylor singing “Blossom,” a version he recorded live with Carole King. “The crowd goes wild,” I told Jerry at the beginning of the son. Jerry lifted on eyebrow, and when Taylor started singing, it seemed like Jerry, for the first time in many days, actually was happy. “That’s the real medicine,” the nurse said as she came into the room.
Friends and family — including the ones in hospital rooms — are carrying on, and I more cognizant than usual of how we are all wayward sons and daughters, not sure where we are some or much of the time, but, to quote a dear friend recently, all walking each other home, no matter what home is.