‘Slow and steady wins the race,’ said the tortoise.
‘Patience is a virtue,’ wrote poet William Langland circa 1360.
‘Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day’ – a popular, but paraphrased and greatly simplified, quote from House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne.
All of these are true, I guess, but irrelevant when your son is told he’d be dead within a year’s time. Then, you just feel like hitting any tortoise you come across with your car while driving. You pretend poetry never existed. You strongly consider donating your full collection of Winne the Pooh that you read to your sons to the local library, just so you don’t have to look at it ever again.
At least, those were my reactions. My son, Joe, however, dropped out of college. No point in an education you would never benefit from, he pointed out, and I found that impossible to argue with. He did the things he always put off for later, thinking he’d have more time. He went on a road trip. He backpacked through Europe. He visited friends and laughed at stupid things with his younger brothers. All the while he whittled away his time till we all turned around and it was suddenly gone. A flash in the pan. A quick blink of a camera’s shutter. The silence after flicking off a light and dropping a room into pitch black.
When I started Joedance, I naively believed it was a way to keep him alive. ‘Look at what he’s doing, even now,’ I thought while opening the festival those first few years or presenting a check to Levine Children’s Hospital. But it doesn’t keep him alive nor does it give him more time.
His time is done, bookended by birth and death, wrapped like a present I carry around but am too afraid to unpack completely. What if I do and it all comes flying out and I am unable to get it back before it’s gone?
Twenty years. So small in the scheme of things. I can cradle it in the palm of my hand.
But it still has its use, the time he had. The time we had together. I crack it open, cup a sliver of it in my hand and pass it over when I can. Mostly through Joedance.
I give it away every year at the festival. I hand it over when I present a check to LCH at the start of each year thinking, ‘Here’s another. Take some more.’ Those pieces get passed on as well, to where they are needed: sponsoring the annual summer internship, providing money for a lab technician, sponsoring clinical trials. Small things that add up. Pieces that build upon each other to make something new, something better. Building to a stronger life.
I give his time away and it’s passed on from person to person and in this way, it continues to move forward. In this way, we can give it back.
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