“Be open to God’s work in your lives,” our minister said Sunday. He concluded by saying don’t put God in a box.
When we stood in line to shake his hand after church, I said Marv’s continued good health reminds me that God is not in a box. God is working outside of any box every day.
I experienced this last week when I visited my friends in Chicago. Marv did fine at home without me. Our daughter checked in and came over for the weekly hospice visit to take notes for me, and he finished his carpentry projects for our younger grandchildren.
And I was on my own in my old neighborhood seeing friends and staying at the Hyatt on Wacker with my long-time nursing friend, Marianna. My Fitbit told me I walked a total of 49, 504 steps, 41, 559 more than the prior week. On the best day, I logged 15, 472.
Those stats confirm how much my “normal” lifestyle has changed from my former urban life where I walked everywhere, and took pubic transportation for back up, to my current small city life where I drive any place that’s beyond the end of my driveway. Clearly, the stats show I must up my walking here at home.
How fun it was to mingle again with the skyscrapers and honking horns of Michigan Avenue while feeling my thigh muscles wake up, contract, and cringe with every incline or set of stairs.
But the best part was being with friends. Spending a few hours with a former member of my writing group discussing our writing projects, kids and grandkids, and aging. Another hour with a friend talking about her new, long-awaited grandchild. A long, long lunch with several friends sharing our innermost feelings about our lives today, the activities that keep us vital and on-the-go, and the challenges we face as we look forward; these friends and I go way back and they are trusted confidants for me to unload the unique challenges I have now as Marv and are living with the uncertainty of the progression of his small cell lung cancer.
And then there’s Marianna. We met in the mid-seventies in a class we were taking toward completing a bachelor’s degree in nursing. As I wrote in Caring Lessons, Chapter Seven, Finding a Friend:
I first saw her red hair. Not ordinary red hair, but wild, bushy, like it was allergic to combs. Her eyes, piercing from under flyaway bangs, looked as if they’d see Rome, London, Paris. Places beyond my new life in Park Forest [IL]…. Her clothes—baggy jeans, plaid shirt, scuffed loafers—surprised me, a proud graduate of Stretch & Sew lessons (p. 77).
We became friends that day, and we’ve been friends over the years through several moves, first within, and now away from Chicago. And this meet-up in Chicago had been planned before Marv’s diagnosis. Afterwards, I questioned whether I’d want to go so soon after Marv had died, or if, perchance, he was still alive, he most surely would be very ill. But being able to go felt like another God thing. Another instance of God’s grace. Another time of God acting way out of a box.
Our husbands joke that when we’re together, Marianna and I talk nonstop. Well, that’s true. And, as my step-counter proved, we also walked, on days she was free—she was there to present at a conference—nearly nonstop.
Even as sleet pelted our faces, we had to prove that we were still young and hardy. We refused to take a cab to the Steppenwolf Theater to see Hershey Felder, pianist and composer, enact the life of “Our Great Tchaikovsky.” We chose to take the “el” which involved walking, at night, several blocks to the “el” and then to the theater, heads down, watching our feet so we wouldn’t fall on the freezing slush forming on uneven sidewalks, and then back again. Topping off the evening, me with a Bailey’s, her with a Merlot, we lounged in the lobby of the Hyatt, just as if we stayed up till midnight every day in big cities having drinks in upscale hotels.
And there was a long day of meandering north to the Ohio Street Yolk for breakfast, then east over to Navy Pier, then all 3,300 feet to the end of the Pier and back, and then a jaunt north to Water Tower Place. We stopped at an apartment complex and inquired about short-term rentals. My mind is always wandering to “What next after Marv dies?” How will I want to spend winters? Warm weather places without friends don’t appeal, but will semi-hibernation in Sioux Falls snowstorms be a first choice? Or would Chicago with its familiarity and friends (and endless classes that I love) be a possibility?
I don’t have any answers yet, of course. But the opportunity to be with old friends, and talking and walking and processing with Marianna, at exactly this time was truly a gift.