Sunday, August 13, 2017

Blessed are the Pacemakers

(from 2008)

The call came while I was trying to find a yoga pose that would knock out the headache that had been growing all day and was spreading down my jaw and into my neck.

The first call I ignored, expecting her to leave a message or text me.

She did neither.

She called back minutes later, but I didn’t answer it because I was pulling my head down in a long stretch, imagining myself diffusing a huge red throbbing knot that was hunkered down like thorny weed right where my neck and shoulder meet.

Again, I didn’t answer.

This time, she left a message, which I played immediately.

“Please call me back, your Abuelo needs a peacemaker.”

Oh no, I thought.

The man gets tired, he’s cranky, and he can be misunderstood.

He needs me to fix something, to help someone understand him.

Of course I will help.

I sit still for a minute, incredibly thankful to be seen as a resource for peace.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” I reminded myself, then fell back into an anti-headache pose, mentally preparing to help whoever needed my help to find common ground, come together, and find stable harmony.

At 8:10, I give up on yoga and pop two Tylenol, figuring I’ll call my mom back when they start to work.

By 9pm the pills haven’t worked; neither has a heating pad or ice, leading me to imagine this headache is retribution from a weed I hacked apart with a machete, or karmic payback from a roach I once poisoned with a can of hairspray.

I call my mom back, speaking softly so the headache won’t wake up and seize me again.

She sounds bright and cheerful, and falls right into a story.

“I took your Abuelo to a new doctor today, and they did an EKG immediately and wanted to schedule surgery, but he won’t do it because he has obligations for Holy Week.”

I mumble my understanding, and then she continues.

“So the surgery will be Monday, unless he gets weak or dizzy before then; if so, he needs to go right in.”

“Wow. Wow,” is all I can say.

Just earlier that day Barb told me her son Sean was having heart surgery in Gainesville on Monday; I say a silent prayer for cardiologists, begging them to not compromise these delicate hearts with shaky hands, hungover from overstuffing themselves on chocolate bunnies or jellybeans.

“Should I come down?” I ask, then wish I hadn’t, wondering to myself why a grown woman would need permission to see her own grandfather.

She doesn’t respond directly, only keeps on with her cheerful tone. “I’m clearing my schedule for Monday; Tuesday he will still be in the hospital – hopefully discharged on Wednesday…”

“Ok, well I’ll be on hold,” I say, and then mentally walk through my schedule.

It would be hell to cancel my Diplomatic History classes next week; I’m just getting to Vietnam, to the Nixon Doctrine. We aren’t even near Ping-Pong Diplomacy, much less the Iranian Hostage Crisis, or end of the Cold War.

Two cancelled classes and I might never make it to 9/11/01, I think, not realizing that I am no longer listening to my mother discuss my Abuelo’s condition.

But he needs me, I think.

He needs me to be a peacemaker, and I should get down there. I exhale, noticing the knot loosening, leaving more of my attention free.

I start to tell my Mom about baby Sean’s surgery, and then think to ask, “What are they going to do to Abuelo’s heart? What is this surgery?”

My mom’s voice stays bright. “A pacemaker. Your Abuelo needs a pacemaker.”

“A pacemaker? I thought he needed me…” I say, voice trailing.

And then Zack screamed for me, and American Idol was ending, so we got off the phone.

“Blessed are the pacemakers,” I thought as my head hit the pillow, my headache ebbing just enough that I could smile again.