Waiting for Unpleasant Things to Pass, or, Cultivating Patience
Clara Bean was a tiny baby and Izzy was five. We decided to visit Uncle John on his Sausalito houseboat. He’s a marine biologist and his house is an adventure. We ate lunch, Steve decided to take a nap and the rest of us went for a stroll. I was feeling postpartum, prickly and fat and was looking forward to a real trek. Izzy had his new bicycle and we were raring to go!
“I want to go for a fast walk”, I warned John. “I need exercise, not poking around on the side of the road looking for some goddamned pollywogs.”
“Yeah, that sounds good. I need the exercise, too.”
Out the door, down the dock, across the trail with the (scary) cyclists, and we were in the air and on our way!
“Come on John, let’s go let’s go!” I had to be bossy, because I know full well that if left to his own devices he will not get far without finding a rock, an old auto part, or worse yet, a person, and each will be more fascinating to him than the last. When John learned to drive, life at our dinner table would never be the same. He would find the strangest people hitchhiking on 101, just outside Ukiah, and he would invariably feel compelled to stop the car and offer them help and a meal. He usually offered them money, too, but it was okay if he forgot that part because they would rob him blind later on in the evening. Once, years later, when he was living in San Francisco, he heard the sweetest singing and found a skinny, homeless guy on the corner. The guy told John he was very sad because his guitar had been stolen. John had just recently saved enough cash to buy himself a long coveted guitar and offered to let the guy come home with him to play it for a while. Steve and I came over for dinner and the guy sang to us in his truly pretty voice and told us fabulous stories. As we bundled up the kids to go home I heard John say, “spend the night!” and I thought “uh oh.” In the morning John called. The singer was gone, and so was John’s beautiful and hard won guitar.
So you can understand why I was anxious to keep John on task here. I needed exercise and by golly, I was going to get it. Alas, we hadn’t gone far when I heard John call Izzy over to the rocky shoreline. He was showing him the crabs that like to hide in the crevices. I couldn’t very well deny them this small pleasure. I looked at my watch and decided to give them a few minutes.
“Okay, time’s up, let’s go!” Izzy jumped on his bike, I hoisted Clara Bean a little higher in the baby carrier and we took off down the path. Without John. I looked back and he was just sitting there.
“What are you doing?!!” I hollered.
“Waitin’,” he said.
“What do you mean, waiting?”
I marched back over there so that I could tell him right up close, without God and the whole neighborhood hearing me, exactly what I thought about his “waiting.”
“John Durand” I said, “I’m the one waiting. I’ve been waiting since the day I was born! Waiting for you to get your shoes on so we could go to the ice cream parlor, waiting for you to wake up and shower so I would get to school on time!” I stomped closer, hissing full steam, until I could glare down on where he was still squatting on the rocky shoreline. And as he looked up at me with his sheepish lop-sided grin I saw an enormous red crab dangling from his left hand, its pincers clasped tight around that real sensitive spot right between the thumb and index finger.
“Oh my Lord! How do you get it off?”
“Just gotta wait.”
I sighed. I sighed so loud the whole neighborhood, probably God, too, heard me.
I called Izzy back over. I rearranged Clara Bean. I sort of smiled. Then we all sat down together and…waited.