Heaven is for Real…..

Sundays belong to me…perhaps they belong to me and the man who lives in my house, but mostly they are mine.  I am not generous with this day.  They usually include coffee and long bike rides and deep naps.  A meal might be made in the evening…easy friends over to hate Joffrey and love dragons…dark chocolate and port sucked and sipped.  They are not the holy days of obligation from my childhood where church and such horrors as fatty ham, forced naps and visits from veiny relatives reigned.  Nope, obligations have no power over my Sundays.

This may not seem very important I know, but it is, so I’m bothering telling you so….(Dr. Suess, The Sleep Book).  Today, a blank paged Sunday, found me, after coffee with the sun risen and papers read, wanting to take Ed to see Heaven is for Real.  So I did.

There has been a shift.  I am afraid if I am able to articulate what that shift is I will lose my standing as both benevolent sister and cynical Rat Packer.  I like those roles.   But I need to articulate this…and even if I come across as the most shallow soul on the planet, because of my Sunday rule, I have no obligation to post this.

This thing with Eddie, this reestablishing our relationship, has been lovely in that I feel I know him well, I feel I am being a good sister of a disabled man, I feel significantly less guilt.  We enjoy each other more.  He is less needy and demanding.  I am very glad I decided to do this.

But as the year mark hit, and we’d overcome so many barriers to a relationship, we hit a plateau.  I mean most relationships do that, right?  I got busy with a project, but we spoke at least once a week.  We got through the holidays in much better form than before.  We were good.

But it seemed that very quickly I was avoiding his calls and feeling put out by the havoc his ten-ton chair was having on my wrists.  I thought of him less, kept out of his business. 

The shift actually occurred not because of him…but it is most apparent because of him.

The shift came with me.  After a lifetime of trying to prove the worth I used to know I have, I stopped, because I knew it again.   I think this is a cultural issue, and not just mine, but it is mine we are talking about right now.  Hokey as it sounds…like the movie…when this shift took hold…suddenly everyone’s worth became apparent and equal…the playing field is currently perfectly even.  So now Ed has the exact same worth as the wealthy, politically powerful, the successful, the influential. ..the exact same worth.

So I felt a pang to go with him to see this movie he has really wanted to see.  I picked him up from church after mass and visited with the couple who buy him donuts and coffee after the service and visit with him in the community room.  I drove us to the movie, transferred him the six necessary times from chair to seat to chair again, got him settled, bought him popcorn, watched this corny film, put up with the stray pieces of moist popcorn coughed on me, and endured his laughter during quiet moments. (The loudest came when the preacher was praying with a dying old man.  The preacher asked, “Do you have anything you need forgiveness for?”  The man sobbed and said, “Everything.” Ed found that hysterical and inhaled several huge laughs.  He subsided only when I told him to shut up.  He then kept leaning into my ear and saying, in what he thought were whispers, “That was classic.  I have to remember to say that on my death bed.”)

And not once did I have that sainted feeling…that I was performing the good sister act.  I was really just enjoying being near him.

The little boy in the movie has an experience of being in heaven.  This bothers folks…church folks.  There are crises of faith with many over the boy’s story of near death.  Jesus walks with him, his meets dead relatives and enjoys the singing angels perform for him.  At the end the preacher who is his father gives a tidy summation that heaven is real…on earth as it is in heaven…in kindness and beauty and courage and love.  Sweet.

I came out of the theater into the warming day.  I walked to my car to bring it to where Ed waited near the slanted curb he needs in order to transfer from chair to my front seat.  It was a perfect moment of temperature and light and ease and truth.  Ed is my equal as is the little heaven boy, the old  Christian folks who comprised the audience, the poor kid who had to clean up Ed’s soggy popcorn off the floor of the theater, my veiny relatives…wait…there is one who cannot be put on the list…Joffrey…nope..but at least he is dead.

So yeah…I think I’ve been playing the great sister role…I think I’ve had him on my Go-To-Straight-to- Heaven card earners list…I think he hasn’t felt like anyone near worthy enough to take a minute of my Sundays.  I think my corn-ball factor has been hidden by a loss of innocence…a need to prove what is apparent…life is good…love is good…on earth as it is in heaven.

How I really know that heaven is for real is that as we drove home Ed asked if I thought he was stupid.  I laughed, “Did you really ask that?” He laughed, “Yes…remember in the movie when the dad told his daughter that all sisters think their brothers are dumb?”  I really didn’t know how to answer him because I have always thought I was smarter than Ed…mostly because I used language better than him and he was two years older.  But since his accident…his twisted form and slurred speech…since the wheel chair and the drool…yes, I have thought he was a bit diminished.  I was not thinking he was stupid at that moment…but most of my life I have felt his superior.

So I dodge the bullet.  “I think Vickie is smarter than you and I….don’t you?”  This seems  an easy way out of the question.  Vickie has been our superior in every way all our lives.

He says instantly, “No…I think you’re smarter.”

There is a rare silence from me.  I have never won any contest between my sister and I…ever.

“Are you saying that because I just took you to the movie?” I finally ask.

He laughs, “and you’re driving…”

I add, “And I got you candy.”

He add, “And you bought me popcorn…”

The list went on and on….