To My Iberian Brothers &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; SistersJune 20, 2011
When Life Throws You a CurveJuly 26, 2011
Working on my novel has got me thinking a lot about family lately, specifically the parent-child relationship. Though my book takes place during the Spanish Civil War, at its heart it is not a story about war. It’s about secrets and the damage they inflict on the person who keeps them. It’s about the need to shed light on the dark matters of the past so that we can move forward. And it’s about the good and bad qualities that get handed down to us from our parents and their parents—and that we in turn pass on to the next generation.
At its core, my book is about coming to terms with the fact that life is a cycle—which is why the Celtic triskele is so central to the story. As I explain on the About page of this site, the triskele is a symbol that has many meanings, but the one that resonates most strongly with me is the idea of birth, death, and rebirth. I’m not talking about Buddhist teachings on actual reincarnation—though I find those interesting. What captures my imagination is the way that everything that lives is constantly being reinvented, morphing from one point in the cycle to the next.
Part of this preoccupation comes, no doubt, from aging, and from watching my parents age. It’s heartbreaking to see the two people you love the most in this world reach the point on the wheel where they are no longer as energetic as they once were. And it’s humbling to know that your roles are reversing, as you gradually begin to assume the part of caretaker for these two individuals who had previously been your greatest protectors. I hate the fact that I have to help my parents more and more each day—not because of any reluctance to assist them, but because it makes me sad to see that they need the help in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong: I know I am ridiculously lucky because they are still very healthy and vital, and I don’t take that fact for granted. I have many friends and family members who can no longer visit their mothers when they need a hug that only your Mamá knows how to give. Or call up their fathers to get their sage advice about some thorny problem. Or sit down to share a wonderful meal with both of them. I recognize that what I still have with Mom and Dad is a privilege. But that doesn’t make it any easier to step back and see how much things have changed.
I guess it’s part of that human compulsion to want to preserve everything exactly as it is, to fix things in their place. You’d think I’d have learned this lesson by now, but it’s amazing how often I forget that controlling the world around me is impossible.
A wise friend once told me that when a naturalist pins down a butterfly to take its picture, he kills it. Though the photos may be lovely to behold, these vibrant creatures are most beautiful when they are fluttering among the flowers and trees, the colorful patterns on their wings highlighted against the backdrop of an azure sky. And, ultimately, that’s what life is. Movement. Change. If you fight this fact, you will kill the beauty of the present moment each and every time.
Instead of struggling against what is right in front of me, I need to accept it and try to find the joy within it. And I need to understand that the ability to do for someone else what they have always done for me is the universe’s sweetest form of grace.