spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily

I Am Ticked Off


Clock / David Stokes
I enter a period of inner peace Sunday afternoon. It lasts until Monday at about 2:16 p.m. when I know for a fact my 28-year old grandson will not be back from surfing at 2:00. My car will not be in the garage ready for me to make my 3:00 appointment that requires me to leave here by 2:40.

Just before exiting he says to me, “Grandma, I’ll be back at two.” I think such a good grandson, so responsible. What a blessing. But then I make the mistake of reminding him that I don’t really leave until 2:40 to be where I need to be by 3:00. Oops, one too many numbers.

Could be he drives away in a number-muddle soon to be compounded by the waves at Pacifica and a stop-off for a burger in Daly City.

Meanwhile, reassured that I am cared for, I go about my morning chores capped off by a long and lovely meditation, which ends at 1:58, just in time for the door to open and my grandson to haul his surfboard and wetsuit through the living room out to the patio. And when that doesn’t happen, whatever equanimity I had just experienced disappears

Emotionally, it’s downhill from about 2:15. I message him. Then call. When the answer machine picks up, fear takes over. He is such a good boy he must have drowned. Otherwise he would be here. Whom shall I call? His father is in the Philippines. Another son is in Connecticut. The third is dealing with his own issues and should not be alarmed at this time. Besides he is four hours away. I don’t know where to tell the Coast Guard to search. My grandson has my car. I can’t look for him.

I continue to message him. Fear has switched me into ungrandmotherly language. I text my 3 o’clock and say I will be late or not at all. She says she will wait for me 30 minutes. Then she admonishes me not to be angry. She means well but this is not good advice and giving it is inadvisable as well. But to her I speak no evil.

Then I launch “the second arrow.” That’s the additional suffering we are said to direct at ourselves for experiencing the first pain. Blame and shame. Raging like this must be a personal shortcoming. What good is meditation? I have no equanimity. No better off than before. Anger, fear and self-loathing. Clearly, I am a meditation failure and so on.

Then my grandson calls. He is cruising. I can hear his rap radio station on my car radio. I scream. I curse. I scare him. He thinks maybe this is a wrong number. I remind him that he promised to return at two and it is an hour and a half past that avowed hour. He is practically weeping. I hang up on him. He calls back. I say don’t call, just drive. He calls. I say don’t call, just drive. Now he is apologizing. But I say what good is that. I am inconvenienced and angry.

Eventually, he drives up and I am outside, unable and unwilling to speak. I jump into the car, adjust the seat from reclining, grab my cushion, which is wet from a drippy surfboard. I drive away leaving him in front of the building.

That night when I get home on BART from studying the Dhammapada at the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, my grandson is not on the couch in front of the TV. I see his electronic equipment and suitcases still in the living room. This is a good sign. I go down to the garage and check for the car. It’s there where I left it when I got back from my afternoon appointment. He texts me he is at a friend’s house. By the time he gets back, I am in bed. Our apologies and explanations will have to wait until morning.

We make an early morning run to Starbucks. I listen. He talks. I talk; he listens. All is well. Well enough for him to borrow the car to surf again Tuesday. I say, please be back by 5 o’clock. I hold up my right hand and ask him to count the fingers. He says five. I ask him how many toes on my right foot. He says six.

I am reassured we understand each other. He survives to surf another day; I to meditate. Though waves break over us, may we float in the greater ocean.

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