Lines in the Sand: Part II
Last night in a hospital room with my father, while he slept, my grown and very smart daughter and I somehow embarked on a discussion about things coming up and looming in our future. The focus was on my father, but as we watched him sleep she asked me a question about some of President Trump’s cabinet picks. I made a couple comments on a few with whom I have had past experience and then an acknowledgement that for others I either was ill informed or didn't have an opinion.
We discussed some of the challenges before us across a myriad of issues. Eventually, the conversation led us to venture down a path of discussion where she made a point about a report released yesterday that indicated 2016 was the hottest on record, an apparent trend as lines go.
As we talked I said something about whomever comes in needs to figure this climate stuff out. She made a comment about Republicans and that is when the conversation took a turn. She became noticeably irritated with me as my facial expression and body language took us down a recurring path when statements like this are made. You see, when we have these discussions it somehow turns into a line issue. She on one side, me on the other. Actually, she and I are on the same side of the line on most if not every issue and maybe it is just my nature, but my body language and line drawing apparently spoke volumes. You see, on the surface, one could say it is a Republican v Democrat, Conservative v Liberal issue but to me it is the arbitrary establishment of lines that causes friction during these discussions. On the surface, it reflects an aspect of the whacky world we all live in where emotional sensationalism and polarized positioning and posturing runs amuck.
For me, it is not a definitive line issue rather it is a communication and discussion issue. Yes I can be opinionated. Yes I can be confrontational. Yes I can be polarized on a topic, a perspective, or a view from one vantage point or another if I feel strongly enough about an issue. But in communicating, effectively or ineffectively as I may I try to keep an open mind and not just listen to but hear other perspectives. We may agree to disagree, or we may figure out how to converge, rather than diverge on a topic. To me, the important thing is the communication and discussion thing behind it rather than the arbitrary placement of lines that merely serves as a mechanism to establish a polarized position, foster a diametrically opposed stance on a topic, or serve as a mechanism to distract and keep us separated as we talk.
As we discussed the underlying issue of climate change, and her initial anger at my response she and my wife were not amused when I said LeGOYA. So I tried to explain my position. Guess what? The discussion did not focus on Republican v Democrat, Conservative v Liberal. I told her that in starting this particular discussion thread with a polarizing starting point I just decided to take exception, and as my body language foretold, a contrarian view. She knows that I actually and unconditionally agree with her on the issue.
I explained to her how the seemingly mind numbing world associated with any discussion oriented on any topic focused on any challenge has lead us to a point in the line of our collective being humans (in this case a time continuum line of where we are today) where no one seems anywhere close to being on the same line. A place where there are multiple divergent lines where it seems that never the twain shall meet. I tried to explain that it was and is this simple but complex point that just drives me crazy (politically, professionally, culturally, personally). As we talked, she still felt like I was taking one side over another because I can sometimes blur my logic with emotion at least from an appearance stand. We talked. We agreed. We disagreed. And that is ok. To me the important thing is that as we talked through these issues, and in doing so, we were currently laying and will continue to draw lines withiin the same coloring book of life.
So as we sat there in the hospital room, having this conversation and proud of the woman that my daughter has become, I thought about the lines that had gotten me to that moment.
There was a line in the past that had led to my father and my father being with us today.
There were lines that had led him to my mother and her to him.
There was a line from them that led to me.
There was a line almost 44 years ago at this very hospital that led me to come home for lunch with my mother. She was not feeling well and had asked me to go tell my dad (he was my elementary school principal) that something was not right and she needed him. She had had a brain aneurysm. The next time I saw her, I was being walked in to the hospital by the school nurse, and my mother was on a hospital bed being quickly taken in front of me to an awaiting life flight helicopter. She passed away shortly thereafter.
There was another line in this same hospital years later, when my step mother was dying of cancer and I was granted emergency leave to come see her as her time on earth was ebbing away. I saw her, not knowing at that time that I had spoken my last words to her. I returned to where I lived knowing that I would find myself moving within weeks from one coast to the other still thinking that I would see her again. She passed away in this hospital while I was headed back home before I continued on to my next assignment.
Last night, as I listened to my daughter’s discussion and thoughts, I not only contemplated what she was saying but also contemplated the fact that there were so many abstract and physical lines in that hospital room. Lines that were intensely personal. Lines that are internal to our little world. Lines just outside of his hospital room with other similar stories unfolding, lines in my home town, lines in my state, lines in my country, and global lines associated with all the challenges of the world. There were metaphorical, universal and cosmic lines swirling all around me and yes, even within me.
I sat there and thought about the one to one line connection between my father and me.
I thought about another line that had originated from two distinct and separate lines that somehow had found their way to that hospital room. One my father to me, and my being on this earth. One my wife’s line leading her to this moment. As I listened to my daughter, I couldn’t help but think about a converging line in my past that was created because for some reason the woman sitting in that hospital room decided that there was something worth taking a risk on and her and my lines connected. And because of that all of our lines had somehow become connected. Not the same but intertwined.
Then there was a line from my wife and me to our daughter. That was one line. We have another line to our other daughter. They are separate and unique but the same.
There is a line to my brother. There is a similar line to my brother’s wife. There is a line to his daughters and son.
Last night, for a few moments all of those lines converged yet again, with some of us physically being in the room together and a phone line in his room and this thing called face time connecting us through a smart phone with the lines of nieces to my father and us to each other.
In this moment, I thought about how all of our lines are discretely unique; distinct but somehow interconnected. They are messy. They are different. They are the same. They absolutely reflect individuality and differences and yet they absolutely reflect commonality. In this moment, with my father, these lines weren’t separate entities, they just converged and became one. None of the individual differences mattered. Later that evening they diverged yet again with my father remaining in the hospital and everyone else going in different directions following their own lines to different destinations.
Where they will lead in the future I do not know, but I know this: Lines can connect or lines can divide. Lines can converge or lines can diverge. Lines can separate or lines can bring together. Lines can allow us to see the past. Lines can help us understand where and how we have navigated them to where we are today. Lines can be chosen and sometimes lines are handed to or drawn for us. Lines lead to something regardless of whether they are straight and narrow, squiggly, or dotted focused in one direction or left to meander down paths well or less travelled. Lines will take us to the future.
As I said in my original post on the subject of Lines In The Sand, “…Me, I will do what I can to embrace the change around and in front of me and at least attempt to raise my voice and make the most out of the sand below and before me.
I want to leave footprints and lines in the sand that will make a difference and help make the world a better place. I hope that you do too.”
My father’s journey in line making started over 90 years ago. He has led a good life and has left influencing footprints that have positively shaped the lines of others with every step and action he has taken. He has shared a passion for and service to others. He has dared to be different and done uplifting, courageous things. He has made a difference and in the essence of his carpenter father, laid a good line
In the end, as my daughter and I were leaving the hospital and I was looking at a jet flying over trying to convince her it was a UFO (she would have nothing of it), and then began giving my best Finding Sasquatch call (there were no trees nearby to do tree knocking—you see we were in a parking lot) she just shook her head and said, I Love You.
Despite how I aggravate her, that’s a pretty good line to hold I think.
For other works by Joel Anderson: https://www.bebee.com/@joel-anderson
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author