Have you ever been in a situation and thought, “There’s a reason this is happening right now”?
I found myself talking to a gentleman today at work — a gentleman with whom I’ve rarely ever spoken, aside from the occasional hallway hello.
This afternon, I took a break for a cup of coffee. He was in the kitchen.
“How did you ever start doing what you’re doing?” I asked him of his role in the company.
He explained how he started out as a chemist and, he joked, since most chemists seem to always end up being something else, he ultimately ended up in a completely different field.
He went on to say that he and his wife are complete opposites, explaining that his wife knew from age 11 that she wanted to be a nurse. He, however, didn’t find his current line of work until well into his professional years.
Some more small talk about his wife continued, and he said that she’s basically retired these days but takes care of their daughter. Who is autistic. And 19. And that their daughter will never be able to live on her own.
“It’s really something that your wife is able to do that, to be in a position to take care of her around the clock,” I said. I couldn’t find any better words at that moment, because — honestly — what do you say to someone who is sharing something so personal?
Others’ personal moments always seem to dumbfound me, because I wish I had more of an authentic, raw and honest streak than I do so that I’d be better at giving an authentic, honest, heart-felt reply. What can I say to someone to express how thankful I was right then and there that people like them — him, his wife — exist in the world and are living proof that there is still such deep love and devotion, care and empathy? My brain was spinning. It was mushy and grateful, and I started hearing every other word he was saying.
I sometimes picture myself as a parent, which is a painfully foreign concept to me. I’ve never had dreams of being a mother, and I never had a doll that I doted on and carted around in a stroller as those she was my own. Of my inability to picture myself as a mom, my own mother speculates that it’s because I haven’t met the person yet with whom I can picture starting a family; I don’t know if it’s that, or if it goes deeper. Regardless, when I do picture it, I doubt my ability to be a good mom. I doubt it because I hate confrontation with others, and I can be incredibly avoidant. How am I supposed to guide someone through life with my penchant for letting things be?
I also doubt my parenting abilities because I’m selfish. I like time to sit and think, to write and do nothing, to play music for hours on end and to walk until my knees feel like they’re disintegrating beneath my flesh. I like that if I want to have a glass of wine, a piece of cheese and a few crackers for dinner, nobody can tell me that I’m setting a bad example. Or that if I wanted to have a Twix bar and water as my evening meal, nobody can wonder what I must be feeding a miniature human being. And, for as wrong and self-centered as this may sound, I can’t imagine not being able to do those very things whenever I want to.
And then there are those times when I see a mother ignoring her young children on the sidewalk as they run ahead of her along a busy street, smashing plants and bushes with a baseball bat while she’s too engrossed in her mobile device to be bothered. There are the times when I see parents’ rage directed at a child too small to understand what they did wrong, let alone where their parents are coming from, and all the child can do is dissolve into a puddle of tears as even more anger is directed at it. Those are the times that I can picture myself as a mom, and I want to snatch those kids up, remove them from their parents’ houses and give them the attention, love and respectful discipline that they deserve. I don’t know what it says about me that examples of parents on the brink of a meltdown make me finally picture myself as one, but it is what it is.
As my coworker was finishing up what he was saying, I did catch his final few words before we parted ways.
“You know, she’ll outlive us — so we’ll have to figure that out someday. But it’s all good, because sometimes God gives us something so that you can see everything else in a new perspective.”
I promptly went back to being dumbfounded, once again not knowing what to say, other than, “True. Very true.”
He left, and I paused in the kitchen for a few more seconds. Yep, God had just given me a spontaneous discussion with a man I’ve never spoken more than one or two words to, and it gave me a new perspective, indeed. On a lot of things.
And for that new perspective, I am thankful.