Paul has mono.
This is unfortunate. His voice sounds like maybe how your voice would sound if (1) you were trying to talk but also trying to gargle saltwater at the same time, so your mouth was full and your lips couldn’t close and your head was tilted back at an odd angle and (2) instead of normal, fleshy-tonsils your tonsils were made of fiberglass that grew like the salt-crystal experiment you created in second grade..
And usually Paul makes up songs on his guitar and walks around the house with his guitar, singing those songs and making up new riffs. But, instead, he has been sitting on the loveseat in the living room with his sleeping-hat on his head and his own water bottle (DO. NOT. DRINK. FROM THAT WATER BOTTLE IF YOU VALUE YOUR MOBILITY/ HEALTH/ THE SPRINGTIME) and sometimes he knocks his knuckles on something until he has someone’s attention and then pantomimes a few motions as we all try to guess what he’s saying—“Brush your teeth?” “Find a toothbrush?” “That lady is our dentist!” It’s a weird, non-celebratory game, but we’ve all been playing it.
So, that’s Paul.
It’s important for me to provide this information because it’s kind of the rain cloud of reality in this post, which is necessary.
Yesterday I went to a talk hosted by our Archbishop and a local rabbi and it was SO GOOD. Words cannot describe. I touched and broadened and full of love and love of the faith, all at the same time.
Anyway, I came home and Josh said, “I’m ordering Thai do you want anything?”
And I said, “Gahhhhhhhhhh, why don’t you order food I don’t like, I’m trying to eat clean!”
And he said, “Sundays don’t count. I’ll let you have a bit of mine.”
So then he ordered Thai and I looked up Alton Brown’s recipe for the best lentil soup online.
(Can we just take a quick aside to talk about how the internet has changed, completely changed how I approach cookbooks? I literally searched, “Best Lentil Soup recipes” one time, picked the first one that came up (that one, high ratings) and I don’t have a cookbook with, like, the recipe saved. I just use the internet. This always strikes me, OK?)
Josh and friends eventually came back with the Thai, and the lentil soup was on the stove, and we all sat and talked, the boys ate their Thai, I ate some yogurt. And then Josh and his friends went outside to start a bonfire, since the weather has been warming up, and I put the dishes in the dishwater and sat at the table.
Paul was rustling about on the loveseat, but every time I looked over at him, he was fine.
He sent a snapchat eventually of himself, sitting there, looking dead, with the caption, “This man had a wonderful woman, a lush garden…” which is a reference to a eulogy-of-sorts given by Jack Black in the movie “Nacho Libre,” and, in the picture Paul had painted fake-coins on his eyes, which is a reference to the movie. So I laughed, figured he was at least in a good humor, and brought out some art supplies.
At this point it was just a touch past dusk. My mom had cut some daffodils, fresh from her beautiful garden, and they were on the table: smelling like spring and looking like happiness. I turned on one of my favorite duets—the one between Don Jose and Michaela from Bizet’s Carmen. (I once told Caleb that, “Carmen is my favorite opera,” and he said, “It’s everyone’s favorite opera,” and I remember that every time I turn on any of the songs. But, still, that duet. Everything beautiful all in one place.) Then I started carving a block because I want to print some scarves for a project I’m working on (stay posted). And, there in the warm kitchen with the music and the daffodils and smell of the linoleum when you first cut into the block I thought: wow, this is very near perfect.
And then Paul gargle-asked me if I had cardboard on the table, in case the knife-tool slipped and I told him I didn’t but I thought it was OK. So then he nodded and started resting again, and I kept carving and smelling and humming.
I want to use the scarves as a solidarity-act of sorts for some of the people I stayed with while I was in El Salvador. I read a Saint-book a few weeks back about compassion vs. solidarity, how anyone can experience a surge of feeling from, say, seeing a photo of a needy child. But, the book challenged that solidarity is when you take actual steps promoting the well-being of your needy brothers and sisters.
Then I thought about the dusty roads I would walk up and down, up and down when I was in El Salvador and all the people I met and the women who hosted me and cooked for me and shared their lives and stories with me. I remembered the cool pot of water they would store in the corner, how their children would walk up to it and drink from a shared mug. I remember how they laughed at me (with me?) when I asked if I could make some traditional-food with them but I didn’t quite have the experienced knack so my result was lumpy and, to them, comical. I remember their concerns, so valid, for their children’s well-being and wholeness.
And then my phone screen lit up, one of my contacts calling from states away.
How happy, you know? Those out-of-state phone calls.
I answered and he said, “Hello! How are you?”
And I looked at the carving and the daffodils and I turned off the music (I had changed it to a song from Handel) and I said, “Great. I’m doing great.”
Because I was.
(Except for the Paul thing. But, he’s getting better, I think).