I've been thinking about concrete lately, thanks to this Goshen controversy, and how its relatively weak nature (low elasticity and tensile strength) can be turned into something approaching indestructible by imbedding bones of steel at its core.
I've been thinking about concrete and how ugly it is, and yet how a certain kind of visionary can take it in all its brutish ugliness and turn it into something brutally, Dr. Seussily beautiful.
My mother and I were chatting Saturday evening, in the midst of Passover and on the eve of Easter, about the idea of a holiday baby and how nice it would be to have such a joyous day, a baby's birthday, in what is even still a month tinged with loss.
My nephew, at four days old, is having a difficult beginning to things, and thoughts of him and of my brother and his wife have been permeating everything that I do, even (or perhaps especially) from nearly three thousand miles away.
We McNeils are not a religious bunch, despite my amusement and odd satisfaction at the idea of this Easter/Pesach baby. But on Sunday, during one of many panicked and heartbroken phone calls as it became apparent that all is not quite right with my brother's little one, my mother mentioned that she had been out walking. And she said, in an almost embarrassed voice, that while she had been out walking, she had found herself talking to my father, and to his parents, and to her parents, demanding that they put things right.
My friend Zak, first thing Monday morning, congratulated me on finally being Auntie Em. We talked about my nephew and his name and everything that is going on. Zak said that with a name like that, you just have to imagine he'll swashbuckle his way through all of this.
Zak went on to say (and with his permission, I quote it here in full because it caught me by such sweet surprise and because such is the beauty of online chatting -- our conversations never disappear), "One of my student employees just told me her dad has cancer and this stuff with your nephew... it's one of those things that makes me wish I prayed. Not because I think it would do anything, but I think it's just such a nice thing to say to a friend who's having some troubles. 'You're in my prayers.' The best I can offer is, I'll worry about you and your nephew, which doesn't have the same generous spirit somehow."
I have been thinking about this ever since, especially after short, cellphone-fuzzy conversations with my brother that leave me searching for better words, for more powerful words, to make this not hurt so much, or to not seem so frightening. What I would like to say to him, and to his wife and to their tiny Wynn Moses, is that they are in my prayers, and that in the midst of this ugliness, I know they already have inside them all the steel that they need.