A Manual

September 10, 2010

Knocking on my daughter’s bedroom door, I woke her up to tell her about airplanes, towers, the pentagon and maybe even the White House. I knew how crazy it sounded from the look on her drowsy face in the doorway.

I called my friend in NYC. No answer. I called his sister. She didn’t know about the attacks or where her brother was, but said something about Palestine, injustice, and the United States getting payback. My brain couldn’t handle both the conversation and the ongoing unknowns, so I got off the phone to deal with the surreality of the news reports.

We had radio, no TV, and slow internet. My daughter came downstairs to the kitchen to listen to public radio with me. We sat at the kitchen table, listening as they repeated over and over the few things they knew, until a new crazy thing would happen, and they’d try to find out what they could about that.

What do you do at a time such as that when there has never been such a time in your memory? No precedent. Do you wash the dishes? Do you dare leave the room to start a load of laundry? Do you cry? When do you cry?

My daughter, a bit of a hypochondriac at that point in her life, went and got her Merck Manual and set it on the kitchen table.

“So, based on my symptoms, I’ve narrowed down my diagnosis to one of four things.”

“Oh yeah? What are they?”

“Brain Cancer, Hypothyroidism, Multiple Sclerosis, and… umm… what was the fourth?”

“I don’t know. You’re the expert with the manual. What are your symptoms again?”

She listed off a string of aches, issues and dysfunctions. We paged through the manual, looking for the cause. The radio kept playing as we found possibly fatal diseases, each one worse than the one before. We started to laugh. We couldn’t stop. We laughed and laughed until we could cry.

A nice thing… narrowed to microcosm, the worst we can imagine is so absurd that we must laugh before we cry.

~

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5 Responses to “A Manual”

  1. Annie said

    “narrowed to microcosm, the worst we can imagine is so absurd that we must laugh before we cry”

    That may be the best definition of the human condition I’ve ever heard.

    Mom-Moments. Regardless of how they began, they are forever precious.

    Or as Melissa says, “Keep it in a jar forever love”

    xoxo

  2. Jkf said

    I could picture this moment as I read…very human and touching.

  3. Dale said

    Perfect. Not just you and your daughter, but also this, which captures that day to a T: “We sat at the kitchen table, listening as they repeated over and over the few things they knew, until a new crazy thing would happen, and they’d try to find out what they could about that.”

  4. Lovely. So absurd. What else happened that day? What might have happened that was so significant in someone’s life, obliterated by the other huge event?

  5. OwlSaysWho said

    Damn . . . this choked me up seriously. Laughing until we cry? Why don’t I think of that more often?

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