Monday, October 14, 2013
Today I’m going to tell you the story of the Turtle. The Turtle is old and wise, even when it’s young. The Turtle never complains or makes excuse. When faced with a challenge the Turtle never passes the buck or says, ‘That’s not MY job,' or ‘Why should I do that?’ The Turtle never worries about its best interest. The Turtle is totally selfless. The Turtle carries the weight of the world.
Is there a Turtle in your life? There is in mine.
The Turtle I know is my wife’s mother. She is wise and selfless and never makes an excuse when the job needs to be done. When my wife was diagnosed last April, the Turtle dropped her hyper-active life on a dime, rushed to her daughter’s side, never left for the next six months. Once a week, she came from three hours away in a rickety, old van, drove days and nights, fueled on black coffee and yogurt, going from Plattsburgh to Albany to NYC, rinse and repeat. Her existence was in shambles. She was never stronger.
That first week in NYC, when winter became spring, the air thick with new life, we waited for “test results,” huddled like packrats in a Manhattan apartment no bigger than a postage stamp. It was a sneak-preview of what Hell would look like, only this was worse. At least Hell has hot water and dry towels. I broke down 2, 3, 10 times. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was a vice grip to the brain, and every day it turned a little tighter. But the Turtle never weakened or wavered.
From a few feet away, I watched this 70-yr-old woman sleep sideways on a narrow couch, eat candy bars for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and wait, wait, wait for some doctor in some hospital to deliver a potentially-terminal diagnosis against her only daughter. The Turtle never said, ‘Why me?' or ‘I need a break.’ In five days as we waited, hours passing like ice ages, this woman never cracked. Never. Not once. The Turtle carries the weight of the world.
There’s not much out there that can genuinely inspire someone. Maybe inspiration is a lost art, I don’t know. But my wife’s mother was a machine these last six months. She is the reason this fight ended the right way. Without her it simply wouldn’ve happened. She saved her daughter’s life, my wife's life. She saved my life. She put our future plans back on track, and she never once--in six dreary and dark months--said, ‘Sorry, I can’t.' I have never seen anything so purely selfless and incredibly inspiring. My outlook on love has been recalibrated because of what I watched her do. That was true love. The truest.
When it ended, she praised everyone else BUT herself, refused ANY credit for the role of weight carrier, 'Nothing to do with me,' and went home, back to her life, leaving us to resume ours. With a horn beep and goodbye wave, she was gone, and we were a normal couple once again. She’s the Turtle.
When my wife called me from her job with the final results last Weds, the really, really good results, I told her not to call her mother till I got home. Why? I wanted to witness the end in person. I wanted to watch her mother react after living in a shitstorm since April. I found her on the hammock in our yard, on her back, arms and legs spread at her side, lifeless, waiting, lifeless. I asked her to come inside, the results were official. Like a firecracker she came off that hammock, and three seconds later was hunkered over the phone, a kid on Christmas morning. She didn't ask why she wasn't called first. Heck, she'd driven all those miles, waited all those hours, dealt with all those doctors, while hubby #1 watched dogs and went to work. She didn't ask why. She didn't care about that. The Turtle has no ego. I got my wife on the phone, who tearfully reported the results to her mother. Victory...for now.
Off the phone, she asked me to fetch her an ice-cold beer. I imagine that first, frosty sip must’ve been the coldest taste after the longest walk in the world's hottest desert. And that's how the story of the Turtle ends.
Today is my wife’s 32nd birthday.
Is there a Turtle in your life?