Monday, October 19, 2009


Sometimes you cannot be selfish. Even when my parents tried to explain it to me back when I was knee high to a giant burrito, I didn't get it. Sure, I nodded my head and tried to not let my eyes glaze over. And I certainly wanted to please them... Wanted to assure them I "got it." But I didn't get it. Then I was a teenager and no one could tell me anything. Then I got older and presumably wiser--if by "wiser" I meant "more selfish."

And then I got older still. I got married, we had kids, careers, family. Still, I didn't get it.

But Sunday night, tired from playing ice hockey and tired from dealing with kids who know everything and for some strange reason refuse to listen to me, I got my lesson. Sunday night, tired, heaving and pulling; a body that had given in, a spirit that had given up. Straining against 80 years of life, and 40 years of neglect, there in the spare bedroom with the urine smell and the damp spots and the messy futon. I understood selfish.

The three of us "count of three"-ing our way from the walker to the floor--a devastating detour. The buckling knees, the uncooperative muscles. The futon so close! My bravest face and calmest voice a flimsy front. Terror, selfish and internal, lending my back and legs the strength to pull again. The strength to stay in the spare room for one more try. One more heave.

Is it selfish to stop caring? Is it selfish to let the atrophy begin and to just stop? Is it selfish to want to run from the room and wash your hands? Selfish to blame?

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