A book about archetypes explained something to me: I am Athena. Athena is all in her head, a rabid fighter for causes she supports, and doesn’t fret about being a woman because she competes with men brain to brain, and does well. She measures many things on a completely other scale, so what she cares about, what she uses to measure and plan her life, may seem odd to others.
Another gunman goes into another school and kills and forever traumatizes more people. See, there’s only power in guns, some people said. That’s not true.
My dad and stepmom and I went to the hospital yesterday. My stepmom was having surgery. I wasn’t sure what my job was, except maybe to make jokes. When I visit my aunt with dementia, I feel the same calling. To be a straightforward slapstick and pun comedian is valuable in these settings.
My stepmom is the sort of person who packed us a bag of snacks for her surgery. Fresh from scratch banana bread and sliced apples.
The hospital is boring. The nurses are super nice. Each step takes forever. I wrote a little, read a memoir that was about the fashion industry, about the lightest thing that could engage me. I explained to my dad how I wrote the story.
We ate lunch with my dad in the cafeteria. He kept our table while I got my food, and then he got his food. The food was terrible.
I tried not to talk to him about politics. I got him some peanut M & Ms from the gift shop. I flirted with a one-year-old boy who was practicing walking, doing laps in the waiting room. My dad lay back and put his hat over his face and listened to a podcast.
When it was time, we went back and helped my stepmom dress. She had three tiny wounds, and she was groggy and dizzy. She and the nurse talked about their dogs.
We went home, and the dog had not peed on the floor, which was extremely impressive.
The same day, these other things happened to my siblings: a fire at work, a scan to look for brain tumors, and a bomb threat at work.
What was I supposed to do about those things? I got those peanut M & Ms?
I watched several hours of a show about British people who visit castles and interact with the castle’s upper class owners. Then I stood up, and I wanted to rip my chest open so the bats could fly out.
Instead I took a shower.
My aunt is bothered by her bra straps and her shoelaces, and her teeth.
There is so much power in nursing homes, in schools in western Kansas, in hospital waiting rooms. There is so much care and love and patience.
Two Marys made sense to me: the one at the spring in my old neighborhood of Kansas City. The Catholic school has a grotto with a little waterfall and a Mary. It was a special place for me. Mary has her arms out, hands open, the way many cement Marys are. She was giving, giving, and open, open.
There was a similar one at the mansion, by the driveway, a cement Mary. She was there to say hi to when you got home. Occasionally the wind knocked her over, and I set her back up. Someone stole her, towards the end of my time there, and I wonder where she went. She was pretty heavy. She didn’t blow away.
Image: detail, Bronze statue of Minerva, Metropolitan Museum of Art.