The Cedarville Review 2021

One morning, my dad went to work and he didn’t come back. I knew that it was coming, Mom had told my sister and I during one of our trips back from the Sheriff’s office. When we asked Mom what we were going to do, she told us that we would take things as they came. So we did. Somehow, Mom made normalcy out of court cases, new jobs, new schools, and our newfound absence of a father. Mom kept us marching forward every day. We didn’t look back, we looked forward, we kept walking, and whatever life threw at us, we’d figure out a way through it. Mom, from decades of practice, was a professional at taking things as it came and as I got older, I watched aspects of my mom’s stories come to life. No longer were they tales and legends; I was watching the champion retain her title firsthand. She never knew what kind of hit was coming, but somehow, she always responded with more grace and poise than I knew to be possible. She was careful, methodical, and prayed more than I’d ever seen anyone pray. The older I got, the more I realized that I’m nothing like my mom, at least not in this aspect. I can take things as they come, but not full of grace, or poise, or prayer - though I try. Maybe it’s because I never ran from a bull, or scrunched myself up to fit on a shelf of canned goods, or because I can’t stand the taste of strawberry Nesquick. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have three months of bed rest to sanctify me or because I’d much rather have silver door knobs. I don’t know. Instead of filling me with poise and grace, learning to take things as they come lit a fire under my skin, and if I’m not careful, it prickles its way up my chest and onto my neck and face. Anger isn’t the right word to describe it, but neither is cynicism or fear. Rather, a mess of unidentifiables provide the kindling for this fire that I don’t quite understand. A lot of well-meaning people tell me that I should extinguish this fire when I try to explain it to them, but I don’t think I can. It does get in the way sometimes, this sort of fiery headstrong-ness: like when I bristle at the thought of trying to pray in a moment of crisis - because praying would force me to admit that I don’t have everything under control, or when I snap at people instead of giving them grace, because, in reality, I’m not nearly as sanctified as I try to be. Sometimes, though, the fire is helpful. It lets me look things in the eye and take them on, no matter how tired I am of doing it. I know that I can rely on it for strength and then capitulate myself into it at the end of the day so that I emerge the next morning reborn. I’ve slowly come to the realization that no matter how desperately I want to be exactly like my mom, I can’t fight on her terms, and she likely couldn’t fight on mine. Maybe I’ll never be a heavyweight champion fighting this way, but fire keeps me alive. It lets me take things as they come - on my own terms. So now, 320 miles away on the other end of the phone line, when my mom tells me that the tumors on her thyroid are growing, even though the doctor promised us that they’d shrink if it wasn’t cancer, I assent quietly that we will take this as it comes. One day, one hour, one second at a time. My mom with the strength and poise of a fighter, and me with fire under my skin. And maybe that’s okay.