That New Normal


This is what the new normal is like.   You start getting in the groove, getting some sense of rhythm, purpose and horizon that extends beyond the next day and then it crumbles.   We made good plans for Sherod, María and I to go to Selma.  I didn’t know how much I was looking forward to that time.  We’d be staying at a hotel, and for the first time in over three months, I’d get to see my girl’s face right after she’s woken up, those big dark eyes of hers, the way she has, when I bend over and sing the “good morning song” to her, of wrapping her arm around my neck so I stand there with my cheek against hers, the warm sleepy smell and total trust of a tiny child.  We were going to stop at Julia’s Kitchen, in Troy, Alabama for lunch.  Now Julia’s kitchen is a miracle of southern cooking so these days, mainly I get to look and smell and fight temptation while I pick at wilted iceberg.  More than anything, I am tickled watching my Mexican child eat fried okra and green beans and catfish.  I am infinitely amused watching her talk to the waitresses with their molasses accent and big hair.

I love how Sherod goes quiet when the pine trees and red dirt and gentle hills and homes with those sweeping “sharecropper house” roofs start dotting the landscape, and the cotton is all around, and the first invitations to “See Rock City” compete with bottle trees for attention.  You can tell the boy is home, that he is as much a part of that as it belongs in his heart and he is content driving his truck through those back country roads in a way I never get to see elsewhere.

All those things and more filled me with anticipation and then it all fell apart.  Our girl has been getting into a pile of trouble.  I imagine some of it has to do with the transition back to school, a new teacher, a new structure to her days now that she’s in high school.  Some of it is the failure to make the connection between action and consequence.  Some of it is just how it is when you are teenager.  The bottom line was simple: a trip with her wasn’t possible and then the rest sort-of unraveled so I just dropped Sherod off at the airport and came back home to clean and prepare for an awfully busy week.  Every time I slow down, though, the sadness returns.

In the cycle of readings we use in the Episcopal Church, today we heard the story from the Gospel of Mark about the Syrophoenician woman who pleaded with Jesus for help for “her little daughter who had an unclean spirit”.  Last night I found myself walking along my well-worn path and realized that woman could be me.  I desperately want my daughter “fixed”—not that I believe she is possessed, not that I ever take the wonder of her being for granted.  But I want to plan a road trip to say goodbye to someone who is so precious to María and get to take it.  I still ache because I want my daughter in her room when I turn out the light at the end of the day and to tiptoe into her room and snuggle with her for a bit as the next one begins.  I want her to have friends and to never have to go to isolation time out again.  There is so much I want for her.

Like the Syrophoenician woman, I wouldn’t have cared that I didn’t know this man.  If I had run into him I would have asked him for help.  I am not sure I would have been as gracious as the woman in today’s reading; I suspect I would have earned and deserved the title of b—-  if Jesus had answered me like he answered her.  But I would have been tenacious, that’s for sure. Even though I am a priest, even though I am capable of fairly sophisticated theological reasoning  and find plenty of comfort in the midst of ambiguity, for just a little bit, I allow myself to wish I could find that man Jesus so I could ask him to heal my girl.

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