Half Way There

Half Way There


Back in the days before car seats and seat belts, my would parents would pile all four of us kids in the 1946 Ford convertible they’d miraculously received as a wedding present only a year after end of the War. Every summer, after the predictable fight over who got to sit in the front seat (won inevitably by sister who was the one most likely to puke), we’d set off for the ten-hour trip up US Route 1 that led to my grandparents’ house at Yelping Hill. The first few hours weren’t too bad. We’d sing Boola Boola and Aura Lee. We’d play license plate bingo and the billboard alphabet game. We’d divide up into teams and see which side could spot the most cows or tractors or red barns. But it was just a matter of time before these games would break down. There’d be poky fingers and accusations of cheating. One of us would scream, “I’ve got to go!” and then refuse to squat behind the bushes when my father pulled over. By lunchtime, my parents must have been counting the seconds until they could order drinks at our half-way stop, the Glasgow Arms.

The Glasgow Arms was the only restaurant my family ever went to, and it was a fantastical place. There were swords and muskets on the walls, and cannon balls in the corner. There were pictures of castles, and there in the dining room stood a full set of armor. I still remember both the relief and the disappointment when my father told me there was no mummified knight inside.

It’s funny. What I don’t remember is getting back into the car after lunch at the Glasgow Arms and driving the rest of the way to Yelping Hill. There must have been more songs and more games and more fights, but it could be that just the promise of being half way there lulled us into an altered state. Maybe we all just fell asleep, our bellies filled with hamburgers and the cherries from my parents’ double manhattans.

I know why I’m thinking about half-way points. Yesterday Peter went in for his fourth round of chemo. That means that we are now midway through this leg of his cancer journey- too far in to turn back, but not far enough for the end to be in sight. He’s weathered the dropping white blood cells, the trip to the ER, the hair loss and growing fatigue. He’s let go of all the activities and many of the interests by which he once defined himself. Some days his eyes are vacant; others they are filled with curiosity about what lies ahead.

And me? I watch Peter as he naps on the couch with our cocker spaniel, Abbie, at his feet. His face is soft in the sunlight with no trace of the tension that used to furrow his brow. Since this journey began, Peter has become more relaxed and free. I’m the one who has taken on the job of worrying, and I know that it is an unproductive task. It strips me of my soul’s equanimity and separates me from Peter. It’s a job I need to let go of. No doubt there will a more ups and downs before we reach the end of this journey, but for today, I’m going to try to take my lead from Peter. Perhaps on this second half of our journey I can join him in the sunlight, simply resting in the heart of God.

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