From the moment an author dips a toe into the waters of professional aspiration, he or she will hear about the need to plan a writing career. We’re supposed to Set Publication Goals/Write Them Down/Display Them in a Prominent Location, Develop a Business Plan, Develop a Marketing Strategy, BUDGET Our Publications Expenditures, Set Word Count Goals, Improve Our Craft, Be Accountable to a Critique Group…
Huh? And here I thought we were supposed Write Good Books.
I’m not much of one for planning on paper, but being around my parents has made me realize that I am a strategizer. Maybe this comes from being a single mom, maybe it’s part of every introvert’s tool kit for protecting her privacy, maybe it’s genetic, but part of me is usually engaged in figuring out what needs to be done now, what needs to be done by dinner time, and what the most efficient path is through those wickets.
In my elderly parents’ situation, I cannot plan much beyond the next twelve hours, and this is… bewildering. Dad might have a sleepless night, which means I won’t get as much rest either. Mom might wake up with another urinary tract infection, which means civilization will stop all progress until I make another trip to the pharmacy.
And yes, this is how many people (parents of small children in particular) live for years, but with the elders, the stakes go way up. On any given day, they can end up back in the hospital—or die. They can fall and break a hip, forget the name of their best friend, or stop hearing well enough to answer the phone.
My friend’s advice from a few weeks ago—look for the Zen moments, the small explosions of joy and beauty—makes more sense to me now. More than at any other time of life, all my parents can count on is the moment.
It’s all any of us can count on, but my parents’ awareness of that reality is like that of soldiers in a war zone. Every flower may be the last one they smell, every cat the last one they pet. Every opportunity to apologize, the last one they’re granted.
THOSE are sentiments to get a couple through any wicket. They will do as last words, most important words, most frequent words, and only words.
What are the words you want to have when everything else is gone? The words you can keep and the words you can give when it’s down to moments and memories?
To one commenter, I’ll send an audio copy “Laura Kinsale’s “Flowers from the Storm,” a story about a couple that found love when words were few and hard won.