Not too long ago, I had a lengthy discussion with a teenage girl and her father about healthy eating and making exercise a priority. They were silent for a moment after I pointed out her weight and BMI on the growth curve. She wasn’t even on the curve anymore.
As I watched them, I felt a disconnect. There was something going on in their minds. There was something about the father’s expression that made me stop. It took just one question on my part.
“What are you thinking?”
With a little further prodding, the father informed me about his wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer. He was an exhausted man. He was afraid of what the future held. He felt helpless. Life goes on, but it seemed to be unraveling before him. Making plans for a healthy dinner and having to do dishes as a result of cooking dinner felt like an annoying and trivial detail in comparison.
I thought I understood then.
But now I understand a little better. My aunt was recently diagnosed with end stage cancer. We didn’t see it coming. But then again, who ever does? Amidst the shadow of illness, the routine of life can feel that much more cumbersome.
Everything in me wants to screech to a halt. To make time stop. To savor a little more of today. To make today somehow special and more meaningful. But life goes on with its usual demands and duties.
When all is well, the normalcy of life feels a bit like a chore. Somewhat dull. Repetitive and unchanging. Day in, day out. I daydream about a vacation. I anticipate the next event marked on the calendar. I’m just passing through the unremarkable routine of today.
But when I reflect on my childhood memories with my aunt, it’s the ordinary moments of time spent together that are precious to me. Sitting around her big round dining table. Playing in her backyard. Watching her cook or clean. Rolling my eyes at her random comments and views. Life does not need to be exciting or glamorous to make it special. Her presence alone leaves a mark.
There is meaning in the routine after all. It is the face of life unadorned. Daily acts of love and perseverence, whether noticed or not.
I stand in the kitchen, making my way through the second pile of dishes for the day. I hear my kids laughing and playing in the other room. I see my husband folding laundry. I look out the window at my vegetable garden and watch the day dim into night. Just another day. But it is glorious and beautiful as is. And it is fragile.
I am entitled to none of this. Even though the daily grind feels inconsequential at times, it is a remarkable gift.
So I am learning to celebrate the routine. I celebrate the life of my aunt. I celebrate mine. I celebrate the generations in my family as we all live and work, laugh and cry, disagree and forgive. Amidst this routine of picture-imperfect life remains an unassuming simple song of love.