Years ago, M and I used to watch “My Name is Earl” on TV. If I remember correctly, I think it was on TV prior to us owning a DVR. I think we recorded it on ye olde VHS, along with a few other shows we liked, and every few weeks we’d sit down on a Saturday night and rewind the tape and catch up on a few episodes. That show was FUNNY. If you never watched it, the premise of each episode was Jason Lee’s (Earl’s) quest to make up for the misdeeds of his former life, to respect the idea of karma – good deeds lead to good deeds (and the opposite, of course.) When something bad would happen he would immediately trace it back to something that he had done to deserve it. He played an instrumental role in his own fate, 22 minutes at a time. I don’t know if I ever bought into the idea of karma, but Earl sure made it seem like the concept of cause and effect was straightforward and timely. Perhaps the existence of commercial breaks influenced its punctuality.
At seven o’clock this morning I lay in bed (past when I should have been) pondering what I might possibly have done sometime in late spring to incur the wrath of the gods – of karma – this summer. I had just gotten off the phone with M, who called to tell me that he was driving directly behind a police officer this morning and had watched the patrol car slam into a median and light pole at full speed without warning. I’m quite sure he was paying particular attention to that very police car, because it was less than two weeks ago that my husband (who never speeds) was pulled over by another police officer and given a very high speeding ticket while others flew around them at much greater speeds. Or maybe he was more in tune with that police officer because just six hours earlier he had been conversing with some other police officers around the corner from our house who were on the scene of a car accident with a parked car. Our parked car. Hit head on by another car, and knocked off the street and up onto the curb, the urgent knocking and doorbell ringing of our neighbor rousing us out of sleep to let us know what was going on. Did I mention that our car is 99% paid for? They always are when something like this happens.
There is not enough wood to knock on in our house. I no longer whisper thanks for good fortune. I feel like the mere utterance of gratitude might bring on the next wave of sorrow, or sadness, or the absurd. After first the baby, and then E and I fell sick a few weeks back I made the rookie mistake of declaring M lucky to have escaped the summer flu. Flu in the summer is itself absurd, no one should ever contract that sort of virus when the heat indexes are off the charts. A few days later he is at the Urgent Treatment Center, and then the Emergency Room, and the doctors are searching for answers to why he would lose consciousness and come to in a strange place and strange position. Why are we back in this Emergency Room again? Why can’t we have a normal summer of sun-kissed cheeks and mosquito bites instead of necks that won’t bend and bodies that won’t stand up? When we are most tired and most busy, why does the dishwasher stop working and the oven refuse to heat up? When we get tired of washing dishes and make time to call for repairs, why do they start working again, on their own accord? Why is everything we volunteer for suddenly in crisis mode, requiring near constant meetings and stress? Why do we have to spend the summer saying goodbye to those that we love? Why does anyone have to say goodbye to a brand new baby, why can one twin be so healthy and one be so sick – why can’t this all be easier, and run smoother? It seems so unfair that it’s all so complicated and difficult and heart-wrenching and bizarre.
I don’t want to spend my life responding to events with “of course”, but I find myself doing that right now. We stay up late to play catch up on all the things that we can never get to, and when we finally allow ourselves a moment to lay down, take a deep breath, catch a few hours of rest – the beep of a waning smoke alarm battery begins before the sigh of relief has completely escaped our lips. “Of course” we mutter as we get to our feet again, the sheets still unwrinkled from lack of use. We grab the ladder and a replacement battery and make our best effort to silence the warning bells for another (too) brief spell.