John’s pick-up truck has a crack in the windshield. It happened while I was driving, last year, on a highway somewhere in The Carolinas. He put a mark on it with lipstick right when it happened. It has creeped a couple of inches since then.
If we don’t address the problem, one day it will break for good. And that won’t be good. We can’t be surprised or upset when it finally breaks. We know it’s probably going to happen. But for now, it’s just a slowly creeping crack. We’re just ‘keeping an eye on it’.
What will finally break it? The cold, the wind, the ice, the NJ winter? The heat of the summer? A random rock on another highway? Or will it stay just like that, imperfect, fragile, always on the verge of cracking more…
When I was 19, my Dad was 38. That was the year his health unexplainedly declined, and he was ultimately diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
I immediately went to the library at my school and began researching lymphomas. The prognosis was not good.
Book after book, journal after journal indicated that he had a less than a 10% chance of surviving the illness. Every word, a tiny crack in my heart.
I remember walking into my house after hours of poring through medical books, my mom sitting at the kitchen table, looking up at me. ‘What did you find out?’
As I read the words out loud from Xeroxed paper, I could feel the cracks getting deeper.
For months I walked around like a shattered windshield; cracked to tiny bits, but somehow being held together by the tension of its frame.
I moved through my days broken on the inside. I withdrew from the classes I was failing, and practically quarantined myself in the college Radio Station. Shattered glass, being held together on the outside by music, friends, obsessive poetry writing, and beer.
By some miracle of medicine my father’s story went on for another 18 years. He continued living his own shattered existence, holding it together in the frame of my mother’s deep devotion. With help from family and laughter and Jack Daniels.
Everyone has the potential to slowly break more, to be repaired, or to carry on, lipstick stained, against the wind and weather.