on fingernails and other problems
I should not be permitted to use sharp tools.
I did it again this week. While slapping a peeler through three pounds of potatoes (in preparation for real mashed potatoes ... the kind laced through with equal parts cream cheese and butter), I went all out of control for a split second and missed the potato. Instead, I sliced right through my fingernail. I didn't knick anything vital, but I could foretell that my little slip was going to make for an unpleasant week, and I was right.
The slice started halfway down my left index finger and shot upward toward the tip. I'd cut it deeply enough that it wanted to peel, deeply enough that a little snag hung there like the end of a plastic ring on a gallon of milk, just waiting for someone to come along, take hold, and peel the whole thing off. I'd have peeled it off then and there, just to be done with it, except for the promise of pain. It wasn't really in a peelable location. That didn't stop it from snagging on my hair every time I absentmindedly brushed it back, or my sweater or dishcloth or anything else I happened to touch.
I stuck a bandaid on it, but I knew even as I wound it around and pressed the edge together that the thing wouldn't make it through the day. And it didn't. I'm in contact with too much water throughout a typical day. Dishes and showers aside, I'm watering plants and filling dog and kitten dishes and rescuing baby ducklings from the swimming pool, where they've managed to jump in but can't manage to jump out (nine in the last two days). It didn't take long for that first bandaid to drop off, and then I quit. I'm not a fan of throwing good money after bad.
I've been really and truly obsessed this week, clipping as closely as I dared, filing the top, and in general, waiting for the thing to grow so I could safely cut that menacing snag away. I couldn't tear my thoughts or my eyes away from that ridiculous fingernail--not until I read the obituaries the other morning and saw the sweet face of an almost two-year old.
We'd received a call on our prayer chain last Saturday to pray for the boy and his father. It was one of those horrible, haunting accidents. The father had jumped in the car to head to the store, and the baby had toddled outside and behind the backing-up car. I can only imagine the devastation of the father as he realized what he'd done, and as he'd cradled that child while waiting for the ambulance, and as he watched his boy being airlifted to the hospital. And now there'd be a funeral, followed by weeks and months and years of regret and sorrow.
Not long after reading the obituary, my friend Lisa called. "We've received horrible news," she said. Her son's best friend had just been killed in a car accident down in Phoenix. The worst of it was learning that after hitting a wall, he was able to climb halfway out of the car, but only halfway. He was alive when the car's engine exploded--alive, but stuck.
I'd met Josh a time or two during trips to see Dan and Lisa when they were living in Phoenix, but I couldn't conjure his face. It didn't matter. I knew his parents and could easily conjure their faces. I could imagine them twisted in grief, knowing the pain and fear their only son experienced as he was dying.
Lisa called back the next day to give me more bad news: she and Dan had just had a house fire. It's a new house, one they'd planned to move into in another week. Dan had been working like a dog ripping out carpets, replacing sheet rock, and putting in new canned lights in the kitchen. Somehow--though no one knows how and it doesn't matter--a can of paint thinner ignited. I walked through the house with Dan and Lisa and our friend, Diane, just yesterday. Diane and I offered a lot of "Something good will come out of this," comments, but the smoke damage is extensive, and I'm not sure twenty minutes of optimism did much to counter the depression they're feeling.
Yesterday evening, I followed Dave out to Lake Stevens to pick up his truck from the last honest mechanic in Snohomish County. Very nice man. Our arrival interrupted his dinner, but he never let on for a moment that he'd prefer being back in the kitchen enjoying his pork chops to standing in his shop talking holly trees and morning glory with me. I'd been wanting to ask him about his last name, so I took the opportunity (Even knowing he had dinner waiting inside. What kind of person does that make me?). "Are you related to the Wolfs of Snohomish--Ralph, Doris, Otis and Darlene?" I asked. He actually was, but only through marriage. That started us on a conversation about how small the world is, and somehow that led him to tell Dave and me about how he was widowed in 1980.
"When my wife died, I was left with seven children to raise," he said.
My mouth dropped open. "Seven?"
He nodded. "I remarried in 1989."
I did the math. I'm quick like that. "Nine years. Those must have been some tough years, raising your kids alone."
He smiled. "I had help from three who love me--the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." He went on to tell us that his second wife had been widowed as well and left with six children of her own. "Together, we had a baker's dozen."
And then this morning, I heard about the house fire in Cleveland and the loss of those two adults and seven children. A short time ago, I saw an interview with the grandfather of six of those children, Richard Carter. With tears in his eyes, he said, "I just want someone to pray for me."
It's been said that if we all threw our troubles in a big pile in the middle of the floor, and then circled that pile for five minutes, looking the selections over, in the end we'd each be content to go back to the pile and grab our own troubles again.
I've been around the pile this week. Today I stopped complaining about my snaggy fingernail.
Labels: mindful living