Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 240
God, Buddha, Husband
Hello. My name is Julie. I was born blind. Well, not really blind. It takes babies a while to open their eyes. I opened my eyes and I could see on schedule. A couple of days later my mother dropped me. The back of my head hit the concrete steps. When my mother picked me up I was blind. If I wanted to shoot my mother someone would have to help me aim. If I wanted to know what something looked like someone would have to word paint me a picture. I never asked for a painting of my mother. Whose schedule was I on now? Totally blind. In moments of stress I would throw out my blind arms for my father.
I don't remember being able to see, but it is impossible to forget the dark lonely despairing prison of blindness. And it gets worse, much much worse. Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four blind girls and blind women cry themselves to sleep with thoughts of suicide. They have the same hormones and the same needs as a sighted woman, but no boy or man calls on the phone. No boy or man throws pebbles against their window. And if a boy or a man does come calling, he does not come twice. Blind girls and blind women learn to not wait for the phone to ring.
When I was twenty-five years old my father and myself and my mother took a vacation to Thailand. At the entrance to a Buddhist temple on a mountain top in Chiang Mai a man stood in front of me and said:
"Hello, my name is Bruce. What is your name?"
We stood on the second terrace of the temple grounds and he pointed out everything you could see in the valley. We talked for forty minutes. When I talked, he listened. He showed me how to ring the row of bells. At the top of the mountain, we were interviewed by a monk and had lucky strings tied around our wrists. We lit incense sticks and he showed me where to put the flowers I had brought. Fluid ran down my legs.
Five months later we got married and soon there were twin daughters. I believed God had sent Bruce to me. I believed in God, and I believed in Godly things, and I believed in miracles. Bruce's voice was my miracle. His arm around me was my connection to God. I asked him to always stand between myself and my mother. He didn't argue.
Bruce said he was an atheist. I didn't argue. Marriage isn't about winning battles or being a missionary. It is about two people looking in the same direction. In the meantime, he set up a little Buddhist place of worship in the house, and he set up a 'birdhouse' place of worship outside on a pole. I helped mix the cement so that we could plant the pole deep. I was so happy to be mixing cement with my husband that I cried. He and the girls would make new offerings of food and of drink inside the house and outside the house every day. Different ways of thinking about the unearthly future. Two different philosophy tracks but maybe the same destination. We had not married for lust, or married for love. We had mated. Sometimes at night we would talk about the destination. I never talked about God and my husband never talked of Buddha. I always thought our philosophy tracks were parallel: headed towards the same point on the same distant life horizon. We never competed or tried to convert the children. They just assumed it was all One.
When the twins were six years old Bruce was hit by a car. He died in my arms. His last words were the name of the temple in Thailand where we had met.
My father and my mother and myself had Bruce's body shipped from Seattle to the temple in Thailand. On the day of the funeral it rained. Climbing the steps we were in a line: first my father, then my two children, then myself, and last my mother behind me. Dad said he could see Bruce's teakwood coffin being slid into the furnace. Just then my mother slipped on the wet steps.
Falling backward she grabbed me. I fell and the back of my head struck the concrete steps. When she picked me up I could see. First I could see a bright white light. Then I could see a kaleidoscope of colored lights. Finally shapes and then my father. I started to gasp, and gurgle, and wheez, and cry out:
"Dad, I can see."
I threw out my seeing arms for my father.
Smoke was now coming out of the chimney. My father put his hands on my shoulders and turned me to face the furnace.
"Look Julie — do you see the smoke? That is your God and your husband's Buddha calling him home. The smoke is showing you the way. Nothing you will see between now and your death is more important than this. When it is your turn you will know your destination and how to get there. You are on God's schedule now, but you are not alone; Bruce will be looking down on you and waiting for you. He was sent to you by your God and guided by his Buddha. When it is time, you will be together again."
Behind me I could hear my mother crying. I didn't turn around.
Christmas so comments to follow.