The Forgotten Muscle: Exercise Gratitude

I spoke to my best friend the other day for the first time in too long.
I was thankful to hear her somewhat weak voice.
I was thankful that she was alive after life-threatening illness and subsequent surgery.
I was thankful that we were both able to forgive me for being too far out of touch.
I am thankful to know her.

Last week, a well-known Portland cyclist and racer was killed in a collision with a garbage truck.
The truck turned right into the bike lane.  The cyclist was not afforded enough time to stop.
He’s dead and his girlfriend is facing the hardest thing a person can ever face.
His parents buried a too-young son on Saturday.
On Sunday at our cyclocross race we rode a ceremonial silent lap in his honor before the race that he would have participated in.
He’d placed third just one week prior.
His best result yet.
His first podium finish.

They buried him in his hometown. 
We mourn him here in his other town.

Sal left last night to pick something up from our shared studio, which is in a not-so-nice warehouse area of town.
He was gone too long and I called.
I am my mother.
And I’m happy about that.
He was still in the office when the phone rang.
"I’m leaving now," he said.
"Call when you are safe in the car." I replied.
"Really??" he asked.
"Yes, please."

He called me 90 seconds later and I was still happy to be my mother.

He left on an airplane this morning in the small hours.
I dropped him off and gave him the kind of mediocre kiss that the unloading zone demands.
He sent me a text when he landed.
Like he always does.
He understands that I’m my mother.

I’m filled with life these days.
I’m filled with the happiness of a quiet, happy, and sometimes tidy home.
My house has bones that are one thousand years old.
It’s hard to keep warm and the kitchen is out-dated.  I refuse to replace the cupboards which are small and high, the way they used to make them back when the world spun a little slower on its axis.
There’s a picture of my house on the plate rail. 
It is from 1916 and there are two little girls standing in front.  A mother in an apron on the porch.
I look at that picture every time I enter my out-dated kitchen and wonder if those girls are still alive.
I wonder what they’d think if they knew I looked at their picture every time I walked into my kitchen to open a small, inefficient cupboard.

I’m in love with the rain these days.
When I say that, people get angry and tell me I will take it back later.
I haven’t taken it back once.
I reckon most people don’t know me very well.

I’m happy and comfortable getting older these days.
People have told me for years that I’ll regret saying that, too – but so far they’ve been wrong.
With every passing evening Sal and I weave a history that is rich and full of stories.
I’m a storyteller but the best ones live in my heart and do not conform to the restraints of the written language.
I can put words next to each other and manipulate syntax in ways that squeeze your chest a little, but I’ll never be able to tell you what it really feels like to lay in bed at night and feel the enormity of love pressing down on you so hard that you think you’ll be crushed by the weight of your simple happiness.
I can never make you understand the gravity of silence during a silent lap for our recently departed.

Mine are small battles, mostly.
And when Sal says, "Let’s put the Christmas lights up early." I know that I have probably won all of the ones that matter.

He’ll be shy about this entry if he ever reads it.
He’ll say, "Oh but that was so embarrassing!"

But why should we hide our smallest and largest joys?
Why should we feel shame in sharing what makes us tremble and sing and sob and laugh uncontrollably?

If there are really human ties that bind then surely these are among them.

I am grateful today and quiet. 
I live in a house full of little-girl ghosts and inefficient cupboards and I am thankful.
And, trust me, the cardamom does not complain.

*

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7 comments

  1. just another reader

    Your best yet.
    Without any question.
    Publish!

  2. Beautiful! You lay out your inner most feelings for us all to connect with, I have these same feelings, just the years of being a man has made it hard to show or let others know how I feel, but with reads such as this, it makes the process easier!

  3. You never cease to amaze me, pal.

  4. what the hell is a cardamom?

    love you. that was wonderful. your mom was even impressed.

  5. Greg Hartman

    Thanks for your thoughts. Introspection is truly divine and it’s even better when shared with others of like minds. Keep sharing with us!!!!

  6. i almost cried. beautiful, H.

  7. David Ortiz

    Silence is the yeast that makes rise the bread of our existence. Peace

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