Familiar faces

We live together, celebrating the years since our meeting. After so long, though, it becomes hard to remember what we saw in each other’s faces, that first time. The features have become people, the strong nose or odd eyes faded into friendship.  Looking at each other today, we do not evaluate. Well, occasionally, of course.

“You look pretty today,” she says. It is a shy moment, not something I am used to being told. Is anyone? Sometimes we’ve made a special effort, preparing for an interview, or a business meeting.

“Nice outfit,” one says, as they look in the mirror one last time.

“Thanks.”

Even this is not the same, it is recognition, and our response something likewise known. Praise for attention to clothing, or a new haircut. We have grown familiar to each other, and each specific quirk, vocal habit or emotion has ceased to be a moment of discovery. We offer comfort for fear, anger at a story of injustice, or laughter. We no longer prepare for one another, showing up instead unannounced at any hour, in any garb. Faces become familiar, and our knowledge of each other’s features background to our daily adventures.

This is a good thing indeed, and it holds us together in spite of illness or anger, good dress or poor, because it is the person we see, not their appearance, or face.

Yet sometimes, on anniversaries, say, it is good to get out pictures and try to remember each other’s faces as they were before we knew them. What we thought before we had watched the other awake without shower or coffee, eyes closed and uncertain of the world around. This shared exploring of our memories is another form of familiarity. Trying to remember what we were so inclined to know better, to photograph, to tease laughter from, is indeed treasuring how far we have come.

There is another goal: an awareness of this change. So that with practice we may be able to see those first faces again, without pictures or special occasions, scattered randomly amidst the familiar daily expressions. And with these observations we remember both why we have spent all these years together, and where the desire to do so began.

Coming home

Those words, for anyone long removed from the later, are some of the strongest.  They bring instant emotion even on a smaller scale, the words of a father on the phone at the end of the workday.  Yet they can be tainted with nervousness at longer exposures, with an underlying uncertainty of what will have changed, and whether home as we remember it still exists.

These words have a new meaning to me, these past few days.  For the first time in several months they again represent a space of my own, of our own.  We no longer rely on the incredible generosity of our friends and families, whose spare rooms and couches,  pull-out mattresses, aerobeds, and attics have sheltered us so well this summer.  The door to this apartment is opened by keys only we possess, and the bathroom will be cleaned by no one else.  There are drawbacks, the shower head slightly too low, the cabinets that do not close on their own, but they are our problems, and I relish the walk to the hardware store that will fix them.

Having mentioned already the secrets each new house presents, the opportunities to re-establish old patterns and form new habits I will only say that, in their absence, I had much missed my house keys and a place to put them.

Thoughts on words

Health care.  A lot of meaning in those words, almost all of which is neglected by the current debate.  The point of it all, of making people healthy, keeping them that way, and improving the human lifespan while minimizing suffering, seems completely overwhelmed by the problem: cost.  What we need is not better insurance, or wider-reaching coverage.  Somehow, with the floating of those two concepts, the actual need, for healthier humans, has already been removed from the stage.  Cost and coverage have replaced care, prevention, and healing as the focal points of need.  And that switch allows for more callous, crass and otherwise reprehensible behavior.

If the conversation were re-focused, so that the sentence “deny someone coverage based on existing conditions” became “do not heal someone who is already sick” the awkward nature of the argument would be more obvious.  Does anyone in our country NOT want care when they are sick or injured?  In a democracy, a country run “by the people, for the people,” how then can we engage in such an argument, where part of society can advocate a solution that simply does not hold with their own desires?

If everyone wants to be cared for when they are ill or injured, how can anyone be against universal health care?