Five years ago I called my parents at their home in Arizona, which was always inconveniently and often sadly far from my home in New York City. My dad answered their home phone, an innocuous action yet one that still knocks me off balance every time it happens. His tone, which normally gallops through the phone and fills the ear on the other end of the line with warmth, sounded smaller and tighter. After what seemed an interminable lapse of silence, he began a tale that involved a driver who’d had a seizure. The driver’s car passed over a median and through lanes of oncoming traffic before overturning and finally slamming into cars parked in a parking lot. The EMTs who had arrived to the scene looked on, befuddled that anyone – that everyone – had managed to survive.
The driver was my mother.
I didn’t hang up the phone after my dad vowed that my mother was fine and that she would call me when she was awake. I only lowered it, with a trembling hand, to my lap and stared at the floorspace around my feet. My mind registered very little for awhile before the vague outline of something I’d not yet resolved myself to floated into my consciousness: I wanted a baby.
Beyond the rasher reasons shaped by the specter of losing my mother, like that my mom should know the smiles of grandchildren and that I could never truly be gotten by my own children if they never knew her, there was a quiet conviction growing in me that a child would buffer the high winds of life. That a child could galvanize the thin casing that surrounds our fragile organs and would set in alignment my reasons for doing anything each day. That a child would be my lucky number.
I looked down at my phone. It was 1:13 when I decided to change my life.
13 is an emotionally significant number in my family. It was the number that adorned my father’s baseball uniforms from the time he was a boy through his years playing professionally. It was the number my brother and I each chose in our own sporting pursuits in part to pay homage to him though also in hope it may confer some of his athleticism to us. It resides within our passwords. It becomes encircled on our calendars. The number 13 is inescapable for us, and it turns up all the time, slapping us in the face with its relentless serendipity.
2013 has tiptoed close. I can feel it moving underneath me. And I know that I need a change to my life again. I’m not sure of what needs to change, and without knowing what, I have very little clarity on how. I only know that a change is what I need. I have many wells of joy burrowed deep into the soil of my life. Good kids, good health, good hair among them. But I’m not immersed in those wells. I’m stepping around them and peering into them from the high ground. I’ve been aware of this void for awhile now, and I’ve tried some corrective measures, like yoga, and fewer carbs, and tailgating less. I tried inviting friends who lack the sarcasm and pessimism I cloak myself in, like the slimming black clothes I always wear, into my circle.
None of it worked.
2013 represents my return to the drawing table. I am going to try some things that make me uncomfortable – beyond wearing leggings and using public toilets- to see how I respond. I have to because I drew my lucky number five years ago, and now the ticking of time has put up the number 13. And my mother, who nearly lost it all in that accident, boldly changed her life last year, and everyone is reminded of it when they see the tranquility that now colors her eyes.
I haven’t determined what those things should be yet so until they occur to me, I’ll probably just start with some situps.
Like 13 of them.
(Brave New Year, folks. Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. For me, they’re the same thing.)