A USA Today newspaper has been left outside my hotel door. Orlando headlines stare me in the face, the world’s sadness palpable – the Do Not Disturb/Privacy sign utterly useless once I have opened the door. Our nation longs for peace, understanding, tolerance, and love. More lives cut short. Forty-nine to be exact. I cannot stop seeing their faces.
I imagine that in the grand scheme of things, it takes an entire lifetime to discover one’s unique blueprint. I learn this lesson every day. At various stages of life, I have hunted down purpose and calling, my raison d’être, each time finding something new or inventive to wrap my arms around, embrace, grab time and attention, inviting me to grow, stretch and see the world through a new lens. Often the journey feels solo and solitary, but in fact, when I open my eyes, there are always a handful of people nearby. Leaning in.
My mother always told me that bad things happened in threes, so when my molar cracked, then our garage door broke, I had a hunch something else awaited me on the horizon. Two days later a boulder crashed through my windshield.
There is never a perfect time to chase a dream. You just do it until it snowballs into reality. You push, you prioritize, inching your way past the fears, staying clear of the naysayers, knowing full well the conditions are bound to be impossible. But you do it anyway.
They show up everywhere this time of year. Like extraterrestrials, each one is strategically scattered around the Valley, as if placed there by design to soothe the soul. Their unearthly presence brings a calm blanket of warm thwarting the chill of winter cold. I like to think of them as the humans of Fresno.
In the days leading up to November, talk of hurricanes and El Niño swirled in my head as I also braced for the emotional turmoil that arrives this time of year. Let’s face it. The holidays bring stress and strain and an unexplained sorrow that permeates even the most dazzling twinkle lights adorning our homes and hearts.
It’s rather hard to fathom that five days from now, I will receive Fresno State’s distinguished alumna award. How this happened, I’m not exactly sure, but then again, the university has been my North Star for as long as I can recall.
We both ordered lasagna, and I smiled to myself thinking he inherited my love for wide noodles and cheese smothered in red sauce. Watching him peruse the menu, placing the linen napkin gracefully across his lap (when did he learn to do that?), my eyes moved from his aqua blue shirt to those milk chocolate eyes laced with hazelnut. He was more handsome now than cute. Few remnants of the once little boy remained.
My mother knows of my obsession with William Saroyan, and as I begin this essay, she is quick to remind me he ate dinner once at our home in the late ’50s. Neither of us can fill in the narrative of how or why he showed up at our doorstep. Not knowing, of course, creates mystery and intrigue, a sheer heyday for my imagination, although such vague recollection disappoints the yearning to discern details or anything that might bring him back to life.
So what do you say to a friend who’s been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer? Is there an anthem of hope, an offering of encouragement I ask myself on an otherwise ordinary day that now feels strangely odd and off kilter?
The year was 1996, and my husband, Dan, had never stepped foot outside this country. So when I suggested celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary in Paris, I knew he would balk but eventually say yes albeit the anxiety of navigating foreign soil, exchanging dollars for francs, and trying to decipher menus written in French.