Last week, on the 11th of December, as I struggled with Julia to get her coat on, to leave the house and head out to school the anger rose up in waves like a flocks of birds, circling my stomach. And swooped in again.
The battle of the winter coat has been waged since the first chill hit in mid November and reached toxic levels that morning.
“If you don’t wear your coat then you just won’t go to school.”
“But I want to gooooooooo.”
“Then let’s go.
Into the elevator Julia and I stomped, down eight floors to the lobby, the doors opened but her coat did not go on. So I decided to let Mother Nature help do the convincing.
“No I don’t want to she flailed around the cement, kicking and screaming, one sleeve of the pink coat on, the other trailing like a battle worn flag. The doorman and I watched Julia’s performance. Then, after a few minutes, I gather my daughter up.
The three of us heading back into the building, back into the warmth, Julia under arm like a slack of laundry.
Eventually the coat went on, Julia and I went to school and I went to work but the anger did not subside, did not leave until, the afternoon when I clicked on my Facebook app update at work, discovering that my friend, Peter Saint John, at the age of 43, had taken his last breathe.
It was the kind of blow to the gut that it takes weeks even months to recover, to regain faith in the workings of the universe.
Peter was a good man. Now a good man no longer walked the earth. Back in September, Peter’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was in remission, a cause for celebration in an Upper West Side eatery, until six or so weeks later, I discovered through Facebook the beast had come back.
Later on that evening as I shopped for a dress to wear to an office Christmas party, I slumped past Macy’s on 34th Street, its mile high south facing facade ablaze with a single script word, set in cursive script, three or four stories tall.
“Believe,” the warm white letters chided me in honor of the Christmas season.
“I had believed,” I whispered and it didn’t work, tears glancing my eyes, channeling the cold. Now I didn’t know what to do with my belief.
It took a week just get back to God knows better than I do. “God’s way not my way.” But didn’t make it hurt any less.
But the loss did do one thing: made me see the events of that morning didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that Julia reached school on time, or how the day went because I was still having a day, because Julia was still having a day, because we were still alive.
We still walked the earth.
Peter Saint John’s funeral mass was Saturday the 14th, a day before the of his birth, amid a raging snowstorm. As I made my way up the slippery steps, a homeless man bunked-out there asked, “Are you looking for the memorial?”
“Yes,” I said then nodded trying to shale the shock away, shocked of seeming level of care
“Be careful, it’s slippery here,” he said then settled back down on his soiled green blanket.
I opened the big-bronzed door of the beautiful church on East 76th Street, and found the pews filled nearly to the brim, at least one hundred strong. Boston Strong someone would later say, a nod to Peter’s hometown and family. Only a great man would make so many people make their way out in the raging snowstorm to say thank you for being my friend.
In the week since the news of Peter’s departure, getting Julia to school has gotten easier. I try harder to just go with the moment. Like Improv. Julia’s coat went this morning, in the apartment, no problem.
” Can take my toy to school?” Julia asked softly, trying not to set off the trip wire of “no”.
“Only if you keep up with it and bring it back home, promise?”
Turning west, the wind really picked up.
“ Wow, Mommy look!”
And Mommy did. She did not look at her cell to check the time. She did not think of other moms who shepherded their toddlers to school with less drama, and fewer tears, ahead of them on the streets of New York City. I looked at the pink pinwheel whirling in my daughter’s hand, and I silently gave thanks, thanks that I have a daughter to see, and wisdom to take the time to enjoy the view.