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Life in Parentheses

Thanks for your patience while I took a little blog break. It wasn’t something I intended but I feel comfortable sharing now that my father-in-law has been gravely ill due to complications from a tick bite. Yes, a teeny tiny deer tick nearly took down a big mountain of a man. Things are looking up and took a big step in the right direction yesterday. I’m not going to go into further details on his battle, but I will say that when they tell you certain illnesses are life threatening for the elderly – they aren’t kidding.

What I can tell you, though, is that I spent much of the past week sitting quietly with Dale by his dad’s bedside. Other family members were there a lot as well, Dale’s siblings and our kids came and went frequently. But, speaking just for us, Dale and I chose to be there as often as possible because we both just felt better when we were sitting by Jack’s side. It was, as Kym once shared, life in parentheses. This analogy comes from the book Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding by Lynn Darling and the idea is that “catastrophes provide a pair of parentheses in which to live apart from real life, depositing you rather abruptly on the sidelines for a bit while normal life continues to eddy downstream.” When I first read that on Kym’s blog I thought I understood it. I mean, Kym explained it really well and it made sense. But now that I have spent the last week or so in parentheses I have to say that nope, I didn’t really get it until now.

Let me try to explain. I am a person who craves order and routine. I am also a person who loves summer and in summer my order and routine includes lots of time on the deck, lots of local corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes, lots of drinks al fresco, and lots of play time. Last week none of that happened. We were at the hospital pretty much all day every day and, while I missed all of those summer routines that I love, I also just didn’t care that I wasn’t able to do them. Life was going on around me and moving downstream while I stood on the sidelines and watched. Luckily I have really great people in my life who stepped up a lot and took care of things at work (thank you, Amy) and home, things like picking up cat food (thank you, Sean) and picking up invitations from the printer (thank you, Jo-Ann). I would have been lost were it not for people who reached out and checked in and offered support. Up until yesterday we weren’t certain what would do about our upcoming Cape Cod vacation and were pretty sure we would cancel it. And I just didn’t care. I wasn’t sad at the idea of not going, I wasn’t disappointed, I was just living in parentheses where nothing else mattered except that Jack was sick.

Life in parentheses has a really beautiful way of showing you what truly matters. All the junk, all the stuff of daily life, it just slips away and leaves you with perfect clarity: the only thing that matters are the people you love.

Want to know how I know that I’m moving outside the parentheses and back into routine life?

I was awake at 4am making lists of things I need to do before we go on vacation. And blogging. It’s good to be back.

This Post Has 34 Comments

  1. This is a perfect analogy for these times that have us living in an unexpected but necessary bubble. I will have to read this book.
    So happy and relieved to know that Jack is improving and getting stronger with each day.

    Love you guys!

  2. Just a note to say I’m here, and glad to hear from you.

    We who live in Louisiana understand how severe the illnesses borne by ticks (and mosquitoes, too) can be! Thanks be to God for improvements for Jack. It’s wonderful that you were given the opportunity of this week to express the love in your hearts.

  3. So relieved to hear that things have turned a positive corner for Jack. Tick borne illnesses can be pretty frightening. Speedy forward moving recovery wishes to him. Hugs to you all.

  4. Glad things are looking up. We had a friend who went from healthy, full of energy 20-something to, as she said, old lady with Lyme disease. Fortunately, she made an amazing recovery. Wishing you all equally amazing developments.

  5. I am so happy that things have turned for the better and Jack is improving. Sometimes, being there is all that there is.

    It is hard to imagine that something so small as a deer tick, can bring us down in so many ways. They are killing animals as large as moose, not by illness, but by sheer numbers, sucking them dry. More analogies.

    Thinking of all of you.

  6. I am so happy to see you back, and even happier to hear that dear Jack is doing a better! Here is to being outside the parenthesis and back into summer! XOXO

  7. It’s good to see you back and I’m glad your father-in-law is doing better. Welcome back – you were missed!

  8. EVERYTHING feels so menacing just now. Glad your father-in-law is feeling better.

  9. I’m so glad Jack has turned a corner and is doing better, and that you were able to be there for him in the parentheses. Welcome back.

  10. This post was so eloquent and moving. Your description of life in parenthesis was so eloquent. The prayers were effective and they will continue until Jack is entirely healed. I am so glad you will be taking a well earned vacation.

  11. I’m so glad Jack is on the mend. Who would think that a deer tick could be so life altering? How scary! Holding him up in prayer.

  12. I’m so glad that Jack is improving and you can slip around the parentheses. There is something about sitting by a hospital bed that strips away everything unnecessary, but I’m glad you can get back to some of the fun things that enrich life. Sending good thoughts and prayers for Jack’s continued progress.

  13. Sorry your father-in-law has been so ill, but happy that he is improving. Best wishes for a full recovery.

  14. Oh dear, I have a friend who suffered gravely because of a tick bite. Unfortunately, she didn’t discover it was the cause of major health problems for years afterwards. She’s just written a book about it all called A Few Minor Adjustments by Cherie Kephart. So glad Dale’s Dad is on the mend.

  15. I went through Lyme’s disease a few years ago. Went through a horrible time before they figured out (or I pushed them into figuring out) – what was wrong with me. I couldn’t even carry my purse – or get up from a chair. Horrible joint pain, double vision, fever, couldn’t eat, dropped 25 pounds…. And I got shingles on my face at the same time! It took me quite awhile to recover – and even now, I have things happen healthwise that I know are related.
    I’m so happy that your father-in-law recovered! so incredibly scary for all of you!
    Tell him to take care and that we are all thinking of him!

    Linda in VA

  16. So glad to hear that your father-in-law is improving and I hope you & your family will enjoy the rest of the summer!

  17. Yes. It’s like a second part of your life… I remember it from the 59 days with dad last fall— all else gets paused. I am sorry you and Dale went thru this and still are. My heart knows how your hearts are feeling.

  18. So glad that your father-in-law has turned the corner. My son (also Jack) has been battling the long term effects of a tick bite for the last several years. Tick bites are nothing to minimize and I am sure that my son is only doing as well as he is because of his youth.

  19. Carole, I am so pleased for all of you! I have spent a lot of time in parentheses, and I understand exactly what it means. However, I never heard it described so well. I should read that book! It is exhausting, disorienting, and it pares life down to the essentials so quickly. I hope Jack continues to improve, gets home soon, and you and Dale enjoy a grand vacation. You have been missed, but I have been thinking about you every day. Try to be mindful and hang onto these feelings as long as possible. It makes life rich and fills you with gratitude. I loved the picture.

  20. Thinking of all of you and sending you virtual hugs. I’m so glad that Jack is improving and I hope that he continues to do so. It’s so hard to watch older family members struggle to fight off illness.
    Here on the Cape, the fear of tick-borne illness is very real and scary, and I am constantly on the lookout for them on us and the dogs.
    Wishes for a wonderful vacation and I hope that you are able to relax and enjoy it.

  21. I’m also vary happy to hear that Jack is on the mend. I’ve been in the parentheses and understand. XO I think you’re going to have a wonderful vacation!

  22. So glad your FIL is improving. I hope it continues steadily.

    Love the concept of living in parentheses. I have been there w/o those words to describe it. Take care!

  23. So glad things are improving. Being willing to accept offered help during times like this is so important.

  24. Good news that Jack is better. I totally *get* the parentheses thing. The various health crises that Smokey has gone through in past 5 years were each one of those.

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