verge (vʉrj)
the edge, brink, or margin (of something): also used figuratively the verge of the forest, on the verge of hysteria

to tend or incline (to or toward)
to be in the process of change or transition into something else; pass gradually (into) dawn verging into daylight

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


No, Juggles is not one of my dogs, but it could be a clever name for one. I'm talking about actual juggling.  The thing clowns do.  Except that I'm not juggling tennis balls or bean bags.  I'm juggling water.  Cold water.  Water that's loose, not contained. Water that comes out of nowhere and seems to be going everywhere. The kind that you wish to contain, hold, and reroute, to get into an organized, reliable flow.

As part of my work, I got called to respond to a tragedy in NH this past week.  It was the  kind of story that sticks to you.  To my immediate left was a view of humanity at its worst.  To my right, on that very same line and in that very same arena, was the kindest of humanity.  It was like standing with one foot in icy cold water with the other in a gentle pool of warm.  Paradoxical truths. I am not capable of explaining some atrocities or making sense of them anymore than I am able to account for the goodness of people. Some things you just have to hold.  Or put down. But I came home from that experience and needed the company of Artemis and Biscuit.  Arty is a particularly attentive listener, as her picture illustrates.  We walked, I talked, they listened.  They hold it.  Where dogs put the things they hold for us, I don't know.

This picture does not show how in the background the furnace wasn't working.  It wasn't.  It absolutely wasn't.

And during the weekend while the furnace wasn't working and I was finding creative ways of restarting it (kicking it and then dusting it in a complex sequential combination), Diane's condition grew urgently worse.    It's hard to decipher whether it's the tumors themselves or the side effects of her medications that are causing her such difficulty and confusion, but again, it's like water.  We were once able to contain it and put it right where we wanted it.  There was some choice, some control, some method. Now, it's containing us--calling the shots, choosing the speed and velocity of the current, seeping in from all directions.  And like an ocean tide, no amount of will can keep this water from rising.

When I got home the next day, the furnace had stopped responding to my kicking and dusting.  It seemed to just take a seat in the basement and smirk at me.  "Say goodbye to your hot water, sister.  Kiss your 62 degrees goodbye." "Fine. Whatever." I said to It.

Fine, my foot.  Whatever....

With a college tour scheduled that same day, Meredith and I set off for the city.  We ventured forward, hoping our showerlessness would be masked by city distractions.  For a few hours, the power was all ours.  She and I ruled the show, and during our reign, we ruled out this particular college on the basis of a very boring and unimaginative tour.  We assume most colleges have libraries.  And dorms.  And writing tutors.  And Wi-fi. And security.  And activity clubs.  Tell us something about this college.  But I digress....

The next day was a day of hope, change.  The furnace people were coming.  My car was finally getting its estimate for last week's Big Truck Clobbers Little Corolla event.  Diane was feeling better.  Still unshowered, I went to school to do my work and regain control of all things.  The friendly furnace man came and gave me the kind of pastoral reassurance that says "There, there now.  It's all better.  That furnace will never pick on you again. Everything--every single Thing--is now in order."  I nearly bowed down to him.  From there it was on to the body shop where it will only be about $4000 to fix my little car (my little new car).

And then again last night, a bigger wave crashed down on Diane.  Another temporary solution is in place but oh, this water is surging fast.  There are people who help--whose job it is to deal with rising waters and know how best to navigate futility.  They are all on board, and they know best their own powerlessness against this tide.  It creates a sort of fellowship whose purpose is to go with this flow.

On my drive home, I ran through my small list of gratitudes.  These, I can juggle.  I can summon them on demand.  I have some control.  I have a handle on these.  They go right where I place them. The next day will be normal again.
Furnace: check.
Hot water: check.
Heat: check.
Car dents: check.
Job: check.
Quality time with Tucker and Boo: check.
Nursing care for Diane:  check.
See?  Everything is in order.

I walked in to my house at 11:30 pm.  Meredith was standing in the middle of the kitchen.

"Mom, the furnace isn't working."



  1. I use the 'plates-on-sticks' analogy when there's more stuff to do than time to do it, but the water juggling metaphor is better. Wonderful writing. Wonderful perseverance.

    Out of curiosity: You present the accident as something that was not your fault. Why are you footing the bill?

  2. Technically, I am not footing the bill, and your question reminds me that my insurance policy and this guy's honesty should be on my grat list. But--and not to complain--there is the time and money expense of getting this taken care of, and the eventual certainty that my premiums will indeed go up. It's just a hassel and even though I'm not footing the bill, I feel like I'm footing something. And, I just need to whine.

    And, the metaphor. I really wanted to juggle jello but I think that's more for trying to nail to the wall.