Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hostages to Fortune

Cat is a great friend, now half the continent away. When Orion was born, Cat was the one I came to with a confession: I was afraid. As far back as I could remember, I'd never been afraid of dying. The closest thing I had to a survival mechanism was a hatred of losing so severe that I would take on the world and the gods and not give up. I might be beaten but I would not lose. And I would play the game, take the challenge, climb the cliff because not playing was a form of losing.

With the birth of my son, I started to feel a chill fear of death. Small and weak, he couldn't play the game, not even the safe game of a relatively sedentary life. He NEEDED, in a way that I hadn't needed since I was old enough to kill my own food.

Cat listened and said, "With Kami and the baby, you have hostages to fortune." I turned the phrase over in my mind. Hostages to fortune. The Japanese daimyo would demand that the heirs of their vassals live at the daimyo's castle as guest/hostages so that any disloyalty on the part of the vassal could be swiftly punished by executing his heir. With every one that comes into your life that you truly love, you have a hostage to fortune, to luck.

In the twinkling of an eye, the person you live for can be stripped away by a driver's momentary distraction, an act of casual violence or the honest mistake of a good doctor.

The fear has fallen away as the children grow into a young man and young woman- I would miss them and they would miss me, but they have a good start and will grow into fine adults with or without me.

While I was gone, Kami had a medical problem. We don't know exactly what- trouble breathing, panic, pain, sweating. She waited until after the seminar was over to give me the message- the kind of silent courage and thoughtfulness that leaves me in awe. She was well taken care of by good friends. She will take more tests...

She has been the biggest part of my life for nearly two decades. The world makes sense because she is in it. Kami has allowed me to deal with the darkness with a sense of purpose, been the safe harbor after each and every storm.

With the news that she was in the hospital my brain began rattling off probabilities, scenarios and contingencies: the thing I've trained it to do so well. But despite any skill and visualization I can never truly grasp what a loss of that magnitude would be like.

My mother had six children. Three of us survived to be adults. She has buried three children and a husband. She keeps going.

There is so much luck in the world and so few precious people.

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