The photo was taken in September 1992. He was just past two and a glowing tow-head, and I was on the verge of thirty and still a brunette (with a perm, no less!). The poem was written in September 2010. It tumbled out of me when I reconnected with this favorite snapshot of my son and I.
Photo and poem converged exactly one year after our lives had been turned by a heart-shattering leukemia diagnosis in my beautiful boy on September 4, 2009.
I used to think of this day as “Tilt Day.” It was the day when everything our little family recognized as “normal”– changed unbidden and without cause. The shift was so sudden and indiscriminate — all we could do, literally — was hold onto each other. “Tilt Day” signaled the beginning of one of the most challenging fates our family has endured, and surely the hardest journey my son has ever been thrust into.
Weirdly enough, even while the wrecking ball of cancer demolished what we had once fearlessly been so sure of, namely happy and healthy lives, it never ruined our foundation. Truly, there was never a doubt in my heart that we wouldn’t some day look back and see that the entire experience made us better humans.
Eleven years later — eleven years filled with hours of laughter, no shortage of tears, milestones accomplished, obstacles overcome, the loss of beloved souls, the addition of glorious friends — eleven years of fully deliciously mundanely gracefully mischievously bumbling messy silly profound and miraculous life exuberantly lived — eleven years later…..here we are.
“Tilt Day” serves as the reminder that no matter what, we can be made better humans.
And that autumn day in 1992? It was a simple day. Sometimes they are the very best ones of all.
May all of your lives be well and full of journeys that open your heart.
“A Simple Day”
We were strolling along in downtown Seattle, going
no where in particular.
It strikes me as so poignant
that we’re looking in opposite directions.
I remember, feeling restless –
(and quietly disappointed) that day.
I had expected something else
(I don’t know what, precisely), but not what showed up.
Meanwhile, He was content.
With hands sticky from a yogurt snack
and a day that was warm and bright,
his intense and perfect face gazes
across the street where
life “on that side”
was so intriguing that in fact, yes
yes, in fact
he was tugging (just a bit) – as if to say,
“Hey Mama, let’s go look over there!”
what stands out in one’s memory after sixteen years:
small damp fingers,
deep restless sighs,
the sound of shoes on dry cement,
the need – no matter how separate our immediate desires –
to stay connected to each other,
and the belief that holding hands
would keep everything essential intact.
© Martha Lee Phelps 9/4/2010
(for you, Reid – this day and all days)
Photo credit: Daniel Rankin
Hi Martha, Thank you for sharing this picture and poignant memory. It brings back any memories of you, times in Ashland, the Phelps family and more recently Emyâs death. Love and blessings from Joe and Inga
Thank you, Joe and Inga. It means so much to me that you follow my posts and poetry. I’m sure you both have a wealth of incredible stories about times with your own boys. Time does fly!