I envisioned this new year as a book of blank pages where I could write happier experiences than in 2021. What a naive hope! For a horrific event at the end of last year darkened the start of this year, as well. I’m talking about the fire that devastated two towns in Colorado. My son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren were in the path of the advancing flames. Thankfully they escaped in time.
It was late that December evening when I found out that their town, Louisville, was on fire. I tried to reach my family, but no answer. I didn’t know they had already fled. I sent a frantic text, but it was 3:00 am before I got words that let me breathe again: “We’re safe.”
I spent the next two days staring at the terrifying images on TV – flames devouring buildings I knew so well from my visits there, parents clutching their children as they struggled to open escape doors against the hurricane force winds,
Amazingly, my children’s house is intact and they have sent survivor messages. “The heat’s back!” “Power’s on! ” And finally, “Potable water!” I should now feel calm, able to turn my attention to other things. So what’s with me that I feel as if “safe” is a temporary word?
I realize what this is about: the capriciousness of fate. Why did the fire take an erratic path that left my son’s entire block untouched, while nearby neighborhoods were reduced to smoldering embers? Why did those two towns burn when residents in other towns were able to sleep peacefully? Why… anything? I remember that when my husband was diagnosed with cancer I cried,”Why us?” He said, “Why not us?”
How helpless we are to what fate deals out. Using superstitious images to placate fortune doesn’t really work. ( I wear the same shirt when seeing a doctor that I wore for visits when I got a good report, as if this will ensure it’s happening again.) Obviously a doctor’s – or fate’s – verdict doesn’t depend on what we wear or token we carry.
I think our mental survival means accepting the limits of what we can control. The world is frightening these Pandemic and global warming days, but it’s aways been dangerous. Fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis are nothing new. Neither, I’m certain, are a mother’s (and grandmother’s) obsessive anxiety about her children’s welfare.
Someone once told me that being a writer must feel “powerful” because I could lead my characters to whatever fate I chose. If only I had that power with the real people in my life! The inescapable truth is that we can’t determine whether our loved ones will be free of future disasters. All we can do – for their sake as well as our own – is try to control our seismic anxiety and to have faith that fortune will be mostly kind to us. And if it often isn’t, to believe we have something beyond the clutch of fate: our strength to rise again.
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY– R available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.