“Welcome home!” Mom cheered with a bright smile and her arms raised high. “Welcome Home, Raj!” Dad echoed. (“Rog” looks sensical but rhymes with “Frog.”) The day was just another of 400 days I have come home to Sandy from work 55 miles away in Tooele. Yet Mom and Dad made me feel like the son newly home victorious from the front lines of life. Slurping our Lazy Rigatoni with sausage and sauce, I told them about volunteering that day at the free NoMas immigration clinic (No More a Stranger), and how I wished the facts for my asylum application were stronger, but that stronger facts would include kidnappings or beatings or murders, and how returning the man and his family to Maduro’s Venezuela likely would mean kidnappings and beatings and murders, and about how well I performed my work might mean escape, and if not escape, returning the man and his family to…. That morning, the shower pipe had again slipped into vibrating screams, which I loathe with rending vehemence, screaming in my soap-slimed face: “You’re doing it wrong! You’ll never be good enough!” and I had again adjusted the water quickly to quiet the unbearable banshee. And that evening, after dinner, Mom handed me a note Dad had written to Tamara, and asked if could deliver it, but after a twelve-hour work day I did not want to find the emotional energy needed to deliver a note to a woman dying of pancreatic cancer, feeling awkward with what to say, but I said simply, “My Dad wrote you a note: he loves you and hopes for you, we all do.” Tears and smiles: they arrive with our suffering and hope. We do hope for her. This is our faith, that in healing or in dying she finds hope and finds love. Pine needles had fallen thick over the years, an unruly mat in the back yard, and I quickly filled both cans, pensive about Tamara, waiting for next week to fill the cans again. With his bowl of chocolate ice cream and a slice of warm chocolate-chip pecan banana bread, Dad complained that he could not sleep the night before, how his hips and legs had hurt, how he sat on the edge of the bed in darkness wondering whether years of sleeping in the same spot on the same side of the same mattress might suggest turning the mattress over. In the day’s eleventh hour, I hurriedly stripped the bed, flipped the queen mattress over, and strapped on fresh sheets. Rising slowly in the stair lift, still they caught me in the last tuckings. “Which way did you flip it?” Dad asked. “I flipped it,” I answered. I hope he sleeps better. We shall see.
Courage at Twilight: With a Vehemence