I've been especially distracted by people's stories lately. Every time I'm in a big gathering of people, I begin thinking about each one's stories. Yesterday we went to a Memorial Day party. One of my friends is just a master at hostessing and bringing people together. That's her story. The stories of her guests were amazing.
Her husband had just returned from China that day. A two week trip with his brothers. He got there the day the earthquake hit.
The next door neighbor came over later. His wife just died in December after years of illness with cancer. She held out longer than anyone thought and died the day before she turned 50.
The lady I sat next to told me about her little brother. He was in second grade when he died after heart surgery. She said that days before he went in, they'd had a fight and she told him she hoped he would die.
My son played with a young boy whose parents were there, but have recently separated. They avoided each other, I never saw them speak. Then one left...and then the other.
Another couple has seen tragedy in losing a newborn babe. They were filled with fear and opted to adopt from the Ukraine rather than try again. So they have this boy, delightful and beautiful and calling for much of their care and strength. And they have a new beautiful boy born to them soon after the adoption. From empty arms to handfuls.
A new grandmom is always a special site in any gathering. She walked around proudly, leaning over to let grandad kiss the babe on the head. That little girl was in her arms for hours and neither could have been happier. Grandmom is coming up soon on 5 years cancer free.
One needs a knee replacement, one doesn't think she has the strength to get up and teach math at 8:30am the next day, one comes in late from her son's baseball game - she is recently divorced and attends these functions alone and her other two were at the party for hours before her. Two people's fathers recently died - one is overcome with extra sadness and confusion because her mother is overjoyed.
Doc is an 18 year old orange cat. He wandered his brittle, unkempt frame through the party laying under chairs, walking over laps blindly and pitifully. He seemed to be at death's door, but embracing one last party, one last happy group of humans buzzing around him. I pet him gently whenever he graced me with his presence. When he layed in front of the sink, I stopped washing dishes and waited to see his belly rise with breath. I wondered if he heard the clatter, if he could see us at all, if he smelled the burgers, if he was in pain. His story was one of living and dying, threading its way through the warm gathering like an old, frazzled, failing, orange cat.