I didn’t know I had a sick, twisted mind until I became a mother. As a parent, the world is all sharp edges, a place where everyone is running with scissors.
There are predators and diseases and freak accidents and bad drivers lurking around every corner.
In the animal kingdom, my child is the gazelle, lowering its graceful neck for a sip of water from the river, oblivious to the crocodile lurking just beneath the surface, waiting to spring.
I’ve definitely spent too much time imagining how I would defeat the bad guy who gets into our house/rescue both of them from our car that is quickly sinking in the water/cure them of an incurable disease/get them out of our fire engulfed home/evade the tractor trailer careening out of control on the highway.
I play out unimaginable, uncontrollable situations.
But we get daily reminders that we have no control.
Beau Biden is gone. This is not about politics, this is about a man who was my age, a man with a career and a wife and two kids. And he is gone.
Beau’s dad, Vice President Joe Biden, has been pummeled by life. I cannot fathom how a man who survived the loss of his wife and baby daughter must now bury another child. Joe couldn’t save them 43 years ago — he couldn’t stop that tractor trailer from crashing into their car as they were out Christmas shopping. He couldn’t save his boy who survived that car crash, when cancer invaded his brain all those decades later.
Joe had no choice. Neither do we.
The fascinating and terrifying part about getting older is that you suddenly get it.
You really do stop caring what people think of you (and you learn they weren’t thinking about you in the first place).
You see your parents in the twilight of their lives and you realize that they drove old cars so you could take piano and study abroad and go to college. They tucked away their own wishes, their own dreams, for you. And now you are doing the same. And you’re happy to do it.
We build our little lives, searching for the person who finds our mental imbalance charming, working to get our children to adulthood in one piece. We want to experience life, yet we want to insulate and protect ourselves against the bad parts, hoping that the things that happen to other people, pass over our house.
We try to control the uncontrollable.
The truth is, people get sick and homes get invaded and cars get crashed. Nations wage war and terrorists plot and children go hungry.
The truth is also that people fall in love and homes get built and your kid gets accepted to college. Soldiers come home and do gooders care for the poor and people work for peace.
Suffering is part of the package deal that is life.
It’s tempting to think, who would sign up for that?
Imagine if before you were born, God came to you and said,“Here’s the thing… You’re going to grow up and fall in love and have a family. But you will suffer. There will be some losses that are unbearable. You will think you can’t survive them. You will. You will experience amazing things in your life, and you will laugh and feel joy again. But the love? Well — the force of it will knock you to your knees. And it will make it all worth it. Do you still want to go?”
I can’t speak for our vice president, but I’m betting he would choose the same life again.
That’s the tragedy and the beauty of life.
It leaves us wanting more.