Friday, January 08, 2010
This is how I was told to prepare for parenthood: Carve a one inch circular hole into a pumpkin, tie it to a rope hanging from your ceiling & start swinging it. Take applesauce on a spoon and try to stuff as much of it as possible into the moving target or else it will scream. Tada! Feeding our daughter isn’t that bad most days, but I learned a whole new sense of appreciation for it when My Uncle Frank visited us from Colorado.
Uncle Frank spent a great deal of his daily free time for years caring for my Grandfather. Frank would feed Grandpa Willard at least one meal most days. They would go to restaurants where Grandpa would drink too much and fall asleep before eating much of whatever it was he really liked that day. The whole excursion would take hours because Grandpa Willard was wheelchair bound and needed a special shuttle to travel anywhere. Despite all the trouble to arrange transportation, nurses and equipment Uncle Frank made sure Grandpa also got to his Dreamland cabin in the rocky mountains once or twice a year. He got him loaded onto a ferris wheel, to the opera, ball games and yes, to many, many restaurants. My Uncle took exquisite loving care of him for about eight years before Grandpa Willard died this Spring.
When Uncle Frank was here visiting he fed our six month old Portia several meals and shared how similar it was to feeding Willard. Her eager anticipation evident in the banging of her little palms on the highchair tray. How she would grin and then open her mouth like a baby bird lunging towards the spoon. Frank said Grandpa Willard ate his meals with the same zeal most days. Frank scraped dribbled food from Portia’s chin, and his father’s too. Both of them had fairly soft, bland culinary options offered to them when they really seemed more interested in a big juicy steak.
As we talked about how similar feeding the baby and an old person was, we stumbled over the meaning of life. Or at least one of them. The meaning of life can be found in eating, consuming, devouring. And not just food. Every one of us needs to eat in order to survive, but there is so much more.
We consume energy, knowledge, time, space, experience and love. We make and use energy doing normal everyday tasks like getting out of bed or turning on the coffeepot. We devour books and words and moments that teach us new things. We drink mountain air and river water through our noses breathing deep breaths that sustain us. We thrive on experiences throughout our lives and become the people we are through having those things occur in front of us. We consume love and get drunk in the amorous cocoon we find ourselves in. We are in love with our lover, in love with our children, loving our friends and sometimes even ourselves when we let our guard down.
Sometimes, as in feeding Baby, the best part of the meal dribbles forgotten down our chin. Sometimes, as in feeding Willard, we get drunk on all the options of life, missing the select few bits of deliciousness we would have savored. Sometimes we awaken at the table of life and realize we have gorged ourselves on junk food, leaving behind the morsels that would have truly sustained us.
We eat and dribble knowledge down our chins as we try to weigh what we learn against what we believe. We share bites of it with the people around us to test their reaction. Sometimes they show us what we thought was sweet actually tastes bitter. When we consume with another it often adjusts the flavor we enjoy. Eating food and living life with others adds to the sweetness.
The best of these times is when our consumption turns into our giving. When what we take in becomes better as we give it out. When we have knowledge that when shared with another brings them peace or joy or fulfillment-- that makes the meaning in our life. When our being loved by another creates in us a softer heart, a more patient spirit, a more giving soul. Life is better when we turn these gifts back out again in our everyday lives. Every one of us consumes, what do we give back? I would like to become more unselfish and giving, like my Uncle Frank. I’m going to spend some time this week considering who else I can feed or share a meal with. Are you free for dinner?