Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Not Fair or Sporting in Any Way

I'm sad. And angry. And sincerely bewildered.

It doesn't take a genius to look around at the world and realize that wealth and resources, luxury and leisure, and something as basic and intangible as old-fashioned good luck, are distributed with a wild and baffling inequality over the face of the earth. Logically, a large number of geographical, geo-political and historical forces are in play, but often the image of a large, simple child scattering gold with an unsteady hand flashes into my mind. What is it that makes it so that people who already have to scrounge for the most basic necessities of life are also situated in areas where earthquakes and tsunamis occur with disproportionate frequency? I love my children, and I appreciate more than I can say the fact that I am able to provide them with nutrition, shelter, and multiple other things that are more luxuries than necessities, but all the money I give to World Vision or the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders doesn't come close to redressing the balance.
Photo by fauxto_digit
And then people who live here, much closer to me, in this rich and fortunate area of the world. People who come looking for a better life and end up in a hand-to-mouth minimum-wage cycle with the added hardship of winter cold. People who are born into poverty and can't find a way to break out of it. Babies who are born into childhoods of abuse or neglect. And good people, like my friend Patti, who somehow, through no fault of their own, end up walking and working for most of their lives through a karmic shitstorm of unknown origin. The intermittent but unrelenting rain of crap has included: parents divorcing, leaving mother with four kids, including one severely disabled (but really cute and funny -- she called me a pisshead on more then one occasion) daughter: increased responsibility on Patti as the oldest child, through which she still managed to maintain high grades and high performance in a variety of sports: two of the most colicky babies I have ever seen EVER, one with a life-threatening peanut allergy: a rocking cool nurse aunt being killed by a careless transport driver: multiple structural and flooding problems with her house: bed bugs: and her awesome, full-of-life, more-physically-fit-than-the-average-Olympic-athlete husband Oli being levelled by peri-myocarditis, resulting in permanent heart damage, an inability to work for a time, and a likelihood that he will never be able to achieve his previous and desired level of physical activity.

Patti recently wrote about her mother (who I know and agree is all kinds of amazing) and said she hates being called a saint. I wouldn't call Patti a saint. I would call her a fucking marvel. It's not that she's not bitter -- who the hell wouldn't be bitter except the most lobotomized, martyr-wanna-be, professional victim asshat? It's that she's bitter in a suck-it-up-and-get-on-with-it way, a funny, foul-mouthed, bomb-the-bed-bugs and pound the shit out of the driveway with a cement-breaker-thingy, make a pot of soup and open a bottle of wine kind of way. A way that lets us joke about how bad her luck is and makes me wonder sometimes why she still lets me be her friend, because things are not even. I don't live what normal people would call a charmed life -- I'm not super-beautiful or super-rich or super-talented. But my babies were textbook babies, my basement has never flooded, my roof has never leaked, my parents are together and my husband is healthy (so far). And I'd like to say, sincerely, that I'll take the next one -- the next catastrophe, the next bout of malaria, the next structural collapse, the next blow out of left field -- so she can rest for a while. Of course it doesn't work that way, and if it did, it wouldn't be truly sincere, because everybody feels like their own life is hard enough, even when we know it's not, and I don't really want the shit to shift its focus from her to me, because I am cowardly and weak. I just want the shit to go away.

Patti emailed me today to tell me that a newspaper story in our city paper for the last few days about a man who was killed in a snowmobiling accident is actually about her husband's brother.

I am now mentally composing an open letter to a God that I may or may not believe in, that goes something like "Dear God who may or may not exist: Regarding my friend Patti -- may I ask what, in the name of all that is good and holy, is your FUCKING DAMAGE?"

6 comments:

Mary Lynn said...

Oh, how awful for Patti and her family. It's so frustrating to see such terrible things happen to good people.

Amber said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. So, so sorry.

Since I had my own kids I feel the unfairness of life all the more. I can relate to other mothers who can't give their kids what I can give mine, and it makes me want to scream at the universe. Why are things so patently unfair? :(

Julie said...

sign my name to the letter too please. sometimes i believe that the universe hands out as much as that person can handle. sometimes i think that the universe is just one cruel bitch with a axe to grind on unknowing souls.

suzicate said...

That is so sad when so must devastation happens to one family. I have a friend like that who has disease and personal health tragedies everywhere she turns. What are we left to do, but pray? Fortunately, that faith is what keeps her going!

alison said...

Life should be fair. Every four-year-old knows that. Every adult wants it to be true too. And it sucks that it isn't. I hope your friend encounters smoother waters in the future and that things settle down in her life. I'm glad she's got a friend like you who cares so much.

Patti Murphy said...

Oh, Allison. I'm staying up too late, enjoying the quiet and reading your blog. You are the most talented writer that I know and your compassion and kindness take my breath away. And your humour lifts my spirits. Life has been a shirt-storm lately. I'm trying to figure out what the message to all of this is and I don't know. I just don't know. I had thought 2010 would be a good year. Then a good friend had a double mastectomy and shortly thereafter, our beloved Simon died.

I guess the thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that many people have it much worse, so just suck it up, use foul language whenever possible and drink red wine until my teeth turn blue.

I don't have to decide which child to send for water in rebel territory only to be potentially raped or killed in the quest for a basic necessity. And I'm not Simon's mother. But do feel free to intercede on my behalf with God and respectfully ask for a bit of peace after this.