What I Mean by “Miracle”
She lies, drug-induced and feverish, in bed, awaiting gall bladder surgery.
He sits in his wheelchair.
It’s sometimes difficult to recognize him:
this state boxing champion, this five-time runner of the Boston marathon, now weakened by the ravaging blows of Parkinson’s;
this expressive man whose face has now lost so much of its bandwidth of emotion, flattened out by the disease;
this steady man who now shakes with tremors.
Then I watch in amazement:
As if dancing, they both lean toward each other. She—this amazing woman!—rolls and stretches her hand, moving around the IV in her arm; he presses with limited flexibility as far as he possibly can, leaning forward in his wheelchair toward her. And they touch. They hold hands. If a picture is worth a thousands words, this scene is worth a million. They don’t speak. They just . . . touch.
Through it all,
Please don’t assume it’s been a perfect marriage. To be honest, perfect marriages don’t interest me. They seem plastic and unattainable.
A poem by my maternal grandmother about her own marriage seems to fit:
Ours is not the meeting of two meadow streams,
The quiet fusion of slow and placid waters,
That start from gentle springs
And meander softly to each other’s arms.
Ours is the whirlpool union of two rivers,
That issue from the crags, close to the skies,
And leap the rocks, and spill tempestuously
To canyons far below,
Where, with steam and vapors rising,
Fired by earthbound mutterings,
And in a maelstrom we mate, and run our course,
Parallel, but never merging,
downstream to the sea.
Go ahead: tell me about your signs and tongues and miracles. I’ve learned not to frown, winter Christian though I am.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in miracles. Back in the same little hospital, in the same little town, with the same two people—after 57 years that passed in a flash—I witness a wonder, a marvel that stirs my soul.