The weather has been so spectacular the last few days. It's like a dream. Down by the water, where I live, the air has been so yummy that I've wanted to crawl between sheets of it and sleep. What a lovely way to celebrate Easter and a new spring.
This Sunday will be a year since my late friend (and former "bf") Patrick fell and hit head while working at the firehouse, slipping into a coma for ten days before he died. His birthday was this past Tuesday, and I have had him and his family in my thoughts all week. So much so, in fact, that the other night I dreamt that all of the NHFD apparatus changed their colors from white to black with yellow detailing. Strange.
But I guess emergency vehicles have been on my mind a lot lately, since Easter Sunday when our street had two 911 calls, at the homes of side-by-side neighbors. One was for a slip-and-fall; the other, unfortunately, was for chest pains in a holiday dinner guest who took an ambulance ride to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he later died. In Easter's warm sunset, it seemed our entire neighborhood was out on the street talking with one another about the untimely death of the dinner guest, and how it is always a blessing to have that chance to say goodbye.
Since things happen in threes, it was unsurprising to hear that the ill father of a friend passed away on Easter, too. It was not unexpected, but it was sad. What's more, he was the NHFD (ret.) father of my friend Mike (NHFD), whose son Nicky is Sean's bestest buddy. When Sean and Nicky immediately clicked as friends I should have known; I grew up good friends with the daughters of Mike's uncle, Kevin, a NHFD legend of sorts. (Though he was always just Mr. Miller to me.) The McGuire and Miller clans have a long history of hanging out together. The fact that Patrick's family was good friends with the Millers was just one of many childhood connections that Pat and I had a good laugh at when we met.
So yesterday, a summery April day, Ian and I went to the wake at the funeral home in Wooster Square, where we were almost exactly a year ago to mourn Patrick. And like a year ago, I saw Patrick's father and mother at the wake, and gave hugs and kisses to many people I haven't seen in ages--unless you count the time we've spent together at wakes and funerals the past few years. (Am I Irish? What do you think?) Ian was daunted. "I don't know any of these people," he remarked as we headed toward the long receiving line. "Are we going to go through that line and shake all those people's hands?" he wondered.
"But I don't even know them."
"And that's okay, honey. Relax."
Ian's not Irish. He doesn't understand. But before he knew it, he was through the line and, like, a good soldier, stood behind me while I chatted...and chatted...and chatted... It was a lively, packed wake, after all.
We left and enjoyed seeing the blooming cherry blossoms throughout Wooster Square and picked up some eggplant subs from Modern for dinner. Once home, I noticed on the dining room table a sympathy card that Sean had made for Nicky.
"Cheer Up" read the cover, with two lightsabres crossed. Then, on the inside, "Just think of how Luke felt when Obi-Wan died."
I cracked up. Perfect. It was perfect. An eight-year-old's attempt to show sympathy is basically, "Dude, you're not alone." I loved it.
It took a while for me to fall asleep last night. My mind wasn't heavy with thoughts, but it was swirling with so many memories from childhood with the Miller girls, images of the rescue trucks on our street this week, and in some ways a frustration that sometimes we get a chance to say goodbye to the ones we love, and sometimes we don't--whether it's the death of person or just the relationship.
This morning I sat up and stretched, looking out at the sunrise and saying my usual morning prayers--a shout out to the Big Guy in thanks for another day and imploring that I do my best at whatever comes my way today. It was 6:30. Then the phone rang. "Honey, it's for you. It's work," Ian said.
The fire alarm was going off in the office building, but there seemed to be no fire. I cautioned my co-worker on the other end of the line, who was at the office with one other employee: "You must vacate the building and call 911, just to be sure. You never know with that warehouse space back there." I hopped out of bed, threw on some clothes and lip gloss, and headed over there.
There was no fire. It was an alarm malfunction. But the firemen milled around, angry that one of the few rear exits for our office is blocked by equipment from the adjoining warehouse business. "No one in the back would get out here alive in a fire," said the Sparky. Fantastic.
So here I am. Finally settling into work an hour earlier than usual. Drinking my tea. Thinking about Pat, about what a small world we live in, about the importance of first responders, and even about my great-great-great grandparents, who owned the fire horses up in Worcester, MA. (Think of Daniel Day-Lewis riding in on them to a fire in Gangs of New York. My Irish ancestors also owned the horses for the garbage collection of Worcester. Were they Irish mafia? What do you think?) I recall the three 911 calls I've unfortunately made for my children (nut allergies suck, as do plastic swords), and I'm thankful that we've had such great responders every time.
Spring is a time for new beginnings. New starts, from death to birth and everything in between. It's also been a time, in recent weeks, in which I've taken taken stock of my career. I have a decent-paying administrative job, but is it what I want to do with my life? Not really. I'm only here because I have to be, since losing my job in what I had hoped and expected would be a career in non-profit work. I still feel drawn to nursing, but intimidated by the emotional toll it could take on me. I don't know that I want to deal with death on a regular or even semi-regular basis in my job. I also feel very drawn toward teaching, especially in a special ed/literacy coach capacity. Or maybe--maybe--as a high school English teacher. I don't know. I'm feeling things out. But right now, I know I want to go back for my master's and get certified to do something to make a difference in this world.
We can't all switch on sirens to save the day. But we can, in our little ways with whatever talents and graces we've been given, make a difference. Even if it is just to tell a friend, "Dude, you're not alone."
What I'm "here for" will emerge as it is supposed to. I've been told several times in recent months that I "should be a teacher", if only gauged by the work I do one hour a week as a CCD teacher in our parish. I love it, that's for sure. And I do it because I want to.
So I'll be open to what presents itself. It might take me by surprise. But isn't that what this great mystery is all about? Aren't we always surprised when things change, or when we find out that new acquaintances and friends have really been part of our lives all along? Don't the cherry blossoms always take our breath away?