As we were going out the door, I made a conscious choice to leave the burner on. I thought we would only be gone for a couple of hours. Surely. I thought it was like leaving them in a crock pot to slow cook. Certainly.
And so, as we waited to see a doctor, I thought from time to time about the pot of beans on the back burner. What if they boil over? Big mess. What if the liquid dries up, and they scorch? That stinks. What if they go dry and start a smoldering fire? There goes my stuff. What if the house burns down? There goes everything.
Most of the time in the ER waiting room, my attention was taken up with the present moment. I watched people and jotted notes in my journal. I watched over Jack, aware of how uncomfortable he had to be during the long wait. And once in a while, I thought about the beans. Two hours, three hours passed. They’re fine, I told myself. It’ll be fine. Four hours passed. Five. They’ll be okay.
A couple of times through the course of the afternoon, Jack mentioned the pot of beans. “I have them on very low,” I said. “They’re fine.” The house is burning to the ground about now, I thought to myself.
I'm bringing this up because of the pot of beans on our back burner these days, as we move into the New Year. I feel a sense of dread because of what's looming: my son, Daniel, could end up in prison. Back in October, he was busted on marijuana charges. There was no big surprise in that, but they're making a federal case of it--that silly turn of phrase we sometimes use when we're joking around--a federal case!
Once I moved through the initial shock, the absurdity of it settled over me. (It's particularly absurd with marijuana laws changing right now, even as I write this.) Unlike many of my friends, legalization is something I am not in favor of. But Daniel faces the possiblity of an unjust sentence, out of proportion to what he's done. Or he faces probation. Which is it? For several weeks, we won't know. Is the house burning to the ground?
Meanwhile, I turn my attention to the present moment of my own life--the way I did in the ER waiting room, with Jack. I knew that I couldn't leave him for a pot of beans, no matter what. And I somehow felt that everything would turn out okay. So, when the doctor finally saw Jack and diagnosed him with pneumonia, and promised him a hospital room, I was free. I drove home, and when I walked in the door, I could smell the beans cooking. On that frigid winter afternoon, they smelled really good.
And so, in this--the present moment of my own life--I'm attempting to do the same thing. I'm vested in my own interests, taking care of my life at home, and in my work, and in my vocation. I'm learning more about what it means to be a parent without parenting, and exploring further the boundaries between my life and the lives of my children. It's that stage--the necessary one parents always come to. (It's also the subject of my next post.)
And I'm trying not to catastrophize and worry. Maybe the house will burn to the ground, and maybe it won't. But, deep down, I somehow feel that everything will turn out okay.