A giant tree limb fell on our car yesterday. The car’s back looked like it was broken: roof crushed, rear end bent, tires kneeling to the ground. Black glass was spattered everywhere.
It didn’t look like I’d ever drive it again.
That night Diana asked if she could give me a face massage and a hand massage and a foot massage after I tucked her in. She touched my eyelids and my eyebrows, pressed her tiny finger pads into my forehead, along my cheeks, the whole length of my lips. Everywhere she touched, a prickly metallic layer under my skin melted away.
It’s just a car, I had said when we saw it there. We have insurance, shielded as we are from the buffeting winds of misfortune by our position, our color, our nest egg.
Diana asked if she could hum when she was massaging my hands, and “Is it okay if it’s just a made-up song?” She stroked the tendons on the backs of my hands, squeezed the tips, intertwined her fingers in mine and wiggled the forgotten crooks. She squeezed the fleshy parts — the heel, the ball — parts of a body that work without being acknowledged.
It’s just a car, but it was the car that Sofia and I had just driven to her first semester at college. The car that had taken us on 5 Thanksgiving trips when all the kids were living at home, summer visits to the grandparents, Christmas pilgrimages, missions to Dutch Wonderland.
Diana takes my feet. Having my feet touched has always felt like being in the hands of Jesus. It touches someplace deeper, more sensitive, a place both loving and needy.
We were at the pool when the limb broke. I had wanted to give the kids something more than riding bikes around the block, and it would be closing soon. The rains come almost every day now, the cone flowers have all turned black, and every last day lily has bloomed.
Something is dying in me too: a hope, a brightness. An opening is closing. When will I be able to bear this? When will I know that this is what happens when something else needs to be born?
“Why does it feel so good to be touched?” Diana asks. We are part of a whole, I say, and touching makes us feel less separate. Touching someone else is like touching our own selves.
The broken car, schools closing, summer waning, blossoms fading — they are all here to show me, again, that nothing lasts. And everything is special.
Diana asks if I could give her a face massage. I run the pads of my thumbs over her plump cheeks, around the backs of her ears, and over her scalp and behind her neck.
There’s something different about this type of touch. Unlike a hug or a kiss, it does not need to do the work of communicating. It conducts something that we can’t control, that we don’t need to control, that will flow whether we do anything or not. Touch recognizes what is in each of us and allows it, unfettered.
I say to myself that I’m okay with this loneliness, this quiet, solitary life. But the tension builds, the silent grief, the continual battering of what used to be, the howling of what needs to die but won’t. And the pain sits there in a parking lot, keys hidden under the mat, until a tow truck comes to take it away.
The last time I saw the car, an orange caterpillar was inching up the curve of the wheel. I wonder if it felt lost, or if it knew it was just finding another way.