“Mom,” my funny-faced five-year old began, his voice low, so I knew it was serious, “why did you not work at Hallmark anymore?”
“I do not work at Hallmark anymore,” I replied, “because I got a better job at Goodwill.”
“You could work there four days,” he says, voice still low and looking me directly in the eye.
“No, dear one, I cannot,” I answer, curious where this is going, “I work enough during the day.”
“You should not have lefted, because then Pappy wouldn’t be sick.”
I recognize in his mind, he is sorting out the reasons why. He is fully concrete in his thinking. If I hit brother, then I will get in trouble. If I smile at Mommy she might give me some candy. It’s healthy, I tell myself, for him to sort out this new normal of terminal illness in his best pal, Pappy. Why then is it I who feel sick?
The fault could lie in any of a hundred places. With his family for giving him bum genes and a predisposition for lung disease. With him for smoking for 30 years. With his doctor for never giving him a chest x-ray as part of a physical. With my Mom for smoking with him. With me for not keeping an immaculate house where no dust would settle in lung tissues.
The truth is-there is no fault line. It is what it is.
How many times have we assigned fault to a situation and therefore exonerate ourselves from responsibility? The kid running around the restaurant, the dropout, the obnoxious child of your friend–all the fault of the parents. We don’t need to then smile at the child and encourage them to sit, to stay in school or give them a shoulder to cry on.
It is what it is, and I can choose to engage or detach. I can choose to smile at my sons, encourage my dad to eat and give my friends a shoulder to cry on. It is what it is, and I can choose to step over the fault line.