bowling skills
Election Year Thoughts

Living in hope

Last week I went to some friends’ house, to play dominos. There was a small group of us, and sitting to my left was a man, a new friend. It was a lively group, lots of laughing and conversation, but between he and I there was another, silent conversation all night long, consisting of casual touches. My fingers would brush his arm; his hand would rest on the back of my chair. Under the table our knees would bump, and we’d make quick eye contact. It was choreography of nonverbal messages.
I’m here.
I see you.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I don’t have to tell you my heart was in my throat. Scary stuff. But there I was.

Between rounds we turned the dominos face down and shuffled them, sliding them around the table underneath our hands. They clicked softly against each other and as I listened to them and felt their smooth coolness beneath my fingers, I remembered the last time I played dominos.
When I was in collage, I used to go visit Mrs. Porter. She was in her eighties, and her short term memory was failing her, but due to a complicated support system, she was able to live on her own. She had a small, sunshine drenched apartment, filled with items that reminded her of stories from her past. She loved her home, and moved quietly through its rooms, touching her scraps of memory, dusting them and enjoying them again and again.
I would visit her for an hour or two, twice a week. Every week we would play dominos and she would tell me the same stories. I was supposedly helping her, but her calm presence in my life was a huge gift to me. The rest of the week I was like a ping pong ball, careening from event to event, all highs and lows and the passion of a college kid. But for a few hours, twice a week, I went and sat and listened to Mrs. Porter’s stories. It was like a tonic.
She would tell me about her kids, and about how the late Mr. Porter had proposed. She would serve me pudding or mango slices in a small bowl, and tell me I looked like I needed some sleep. And whenever I said I was hoping for something, like a good grade on a test, she would reply cheerfully,
“Well, live in hope, if you die in despair.”
It became one of my favorite phrases, not only because I understood the subtext she delivered it with (something like, oh lighten up, youngster), but because it was such a Mrs. Porter thing to say. She’d lost enough in her life to know the reality of despair, yet she chose daily to live in hope.
One day Mrs. Porter had a heart attack, and ended up in the hospital. Her family asked me to spend a few nights with her, to give them a break. I sat at her bedside, in a small pool of light, listening to the beep and murmur of machines all around her. Every so often she’d try to sit up, her fingers reaching for the oxygen tube across her face, scrabbling to remove the IV in her arm. I took her hands in mine, rubbing her cool, papery skin, and whispered reassurances.
“It’s ok, Mrs. Porter. Lie down. The IV is to help you feel better, and you need the oxygen right now. It’s ok, lie back.” Her red-rimmed eyes searched my face, as she struggled to understand. She was in pain from broken ribs she’d gotten during CPR, she was confused, and she wanted to go home. Tears slid down her cheeks and she turned away from me to sleep fitfully again.
After a while in the hospital, Mrs. Porter was moved to a nursing home. I saw her a few times after that, and she sat listlessly in a wheelchair, and told me she missed her home. Before too long she succumbed to congestive heart failure. Fluid gathered around her heart and in her lungs until it simply snuffed her out. For a long time I felt like those of us who loved Mrs. Porter had failed her, taking her out of her sunny home so she could die sadly in a place she hated. It would have been better, I thought, if the person who’d found her there on the floor of her apartment had simply sat down next to her, smoothed her hair back, and let her die where she was happy.
But now I know I was wrong about that. To have decided that her life was over would have been to deny the hope she filled her days with. And the end, her sad and quiet end, didn’t negate her life, but rather served as a contrast to highlight it. Against the darkness of her death, the joy of her life glowed like a jewel.
Mrs. Porter knew all along that the possibility of loss made the gift of life that much sweeter. She did live in hope, knowing that she might die in despair.
And now here I stand, looking out of my comfort zone, at this friend of mine. He is holding his hand out, inviting me into the tentative first steps of a new relationship. I look at him for a long moment, then slide my hand lightly into his.
Who knows what I’ll find?



(((HUGHUGHUG))) Smiling from ear to ear, so sure you can find your way, especially with his help!


What a gift for writing, remembering and touching others you have. Thank you for sharing this, and OH! I'm so thrilled for you and the new possibilities!!


I am SO PROUD of you for sharing this. And also I will personally come beat the snot out of him if he breaks your heart. So. Duly warned.




I smell an essay. ;o)


I'm speechless. What an awesome blog, Kira, so well written and so full of life. It's as if it were a living being all by itself, just beating with every beat of YOUR heart. So wonderful. And... how exciting! I hope to meet him at the costume party... hint hint.


So beautiful! You. The blog. The hope. All of it. Just what I needed to read. All I can say is Go Go Go! You make me hopeful.


That has to be the most profound, meaningful thing I have read in weeks, thank you so much for putting some light into an otherwise dreary day. Luvs ya!


Beautifully written. And hopeful. Good for you.


it's about time!



Yay! This beautiful entry exemplifies why I have you bookmarked!

Hope Wilbanks

Good for you!!! :) Well written!

Amma D

Are all of your readers NUTS?!

Terror! Alarm! O, Dear Me...I drop to my knees in sheer angst!!!!!

Incline her heart according to your will, O God, and speed their steps along your path...

That was paths. Paths. Not one path!!!!


One can never have to many friends....
Here's hoping that this one becomes a special one!


Ohhhh ... you made me cry! And I never cry!

Hula Doula

Doing the happy and sentimental dance!!! Yay!


Wow, do those first lines regarding tentative touches and the silent messages they conveyed remind me of my first party/significant meeting of Keith... Well written. What a gift. The blessing of a new friend. How lovely. I'm so happy for you. I think we all feel Mir's sentiment. There is an army waiting to protect you!

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