My daughter has always stretched me in uncomfortable ways, starting with her birth.
I was raised a blue-collar Christian in a town of sixty-five people. My father was a police officer, my mother, a waitress. Being in the middle of five children, the lessons learned in my childhood are still ingrained into the adult me.
I was twenty-four when my daughter was born. Life changed in the blink of an eye. I remember crawling into my husband’s lap, crying as I asked him what the hospital thought of sending this baby home with me; I was not competent.
The plan was to breastfeed, but she fought me, and after four months, I gave up and let her have the bottle she wanted. Why didn’t she do things my way?
Throughout her life, she’s made me see things through a different lens I had never imagined. Not everyone had to conform to be loved. I am uncomfortable, but I see she is right about many things.
When we started to like one another again at the end of the teen years, she’d chosen a college one hundred and fifty miles away. So brave compared to me. I never went to college. I met my husband at seventeen and married him at nineteen. She moved without a second thought while I bawled my eyes out, pulling away from the school after moving her into the dorm.
A few years post-college, she moved out of state to live with her best friend, whose husband had been deployed. There, she met her husband, married, and went to live in Germany, something she always wanted to do. The umbilical cord does not stretch that far. I told her not to have a child while she was in Germany, and she did.
I am not an easy flyer, and I had to fly for hours to see her and her new family. Something I detested, but the things I saw and experienced were beyond my imagination.
She pushed me to see a new world beyond the comfort of the United States and my little town. On my fifty-fifth birthday, we took a high-speed train from Germany to Paris, where I was treated to thirty-six hours in that beautiful city.
A few weeks ago, she visited me in Florida, letting me know she would attend a Buddist Temple service. I couldn’t let her go alone, but my fear since the Pandemic kept me isolated. Yet again, she is stretching me.
We got up early and drove an hour to the Temple of the Universe, founded by an author she follows, finding the building in the middle of a beautiful nature preserve. The spring ahead time change happened that morning, and we were there early for the nine o’clock service.
Walking up to the temple, a woman asked if we’d ever been to their service. We told her no.
“You must remove your shoes outside the door and remain quiet in the temple. There is no speaking allowed, only meditation.”
We took our shoes off and walked in, seeing pillows all over the floor. After five back surgeries, I could not sit on the floor, so I grabbed the only armed chair in the corner next to the exit door. After a while, stragglers started to come in and find their pile of pillows to sit upon. Judging by the amount of fidgeting, I knew we were in for a long haul and was grateful we had chairs to sit on.
Nine o’clock came and went. No speaker, and I am becoming perturbed. A gentleman stood up and announced they would start the service later due to the time change.
Now I am pushed out of my comfort zone. I am always on time, we woke early to be there, and the congregation couldn’t do the same.
I’d already sat in silence for over half an hour waiting, which is something I don’t do, as my mouth is always moving. When you listen to your body for that long, you realize how much pain you are in when you are not distracted. I stayed because I told her I would go.
Soon, many people start coming in, and my false sense of security of not masking in public flounders. I put my mask on. People are sitting at my feet and all around us. I can’t believe how many people fit in this small room. I see my daughter take out her mask and put it on; I squeeze her arm, thanking her in that mother/daughter language.
“Don’t freak on me,” she whispers. Too late, I think back at her. Finally, a man steps out and wishes us good morning, and starts the service, lighting candles. There is a picture of Jesus there! I am pacified, knowing this is an ecumenical service. They said the Lord’s Prayer two times and sang chanting-type songs for a long while until the keyboard was put away, and the singer became the speaker.
I like what he says, but I can’t sit anymore; two and a half hours later, I must go to the washroom.
I stand up and try to step over the sea of humanity before me. I know that I am going to fall. Balance is one of the things I lost in the back surgeries, but a nice man reached out to me. I gratefully took his hand and stepped into an area with no people. After waiting in line for the one toilet which services nearly one hundred people in the building, I leave instead of returning to the service.
I don’t like masking, but I hate the insecurity of not wearing one, too. On the steps leading up to the temple sat hundreds of shoes. The charm of it struck me. I took pictures. Walking outside, I am relieved to be out of the too-tight for my surroundings. I hear the singing start again and know they are moving to end the service. I had already texted my daughter, letting her know I wasn’t returning, she should take her time, and I was fine.
The service could be summed up with the lyric from a well-known song. “All we are is dust in the wind.” She stretched me again. I am sixty-six years old, and I never know what my daughter will spring on me next.
Thank you, my daughter, for forcing me to do things I would never do. You have opened my eyes and enlightened me even though I have resisted you every step of the way.
NOV 2019 / NOV 2022 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, Red, a dorky dog and a stray cat. She has published over 600 drabbles, short stories, and poems in online ezines and anthologies. She co-wrote a novel under the pen name of Garrison McKnight, was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Award, Falling Star Magazine, and was runner-up in the 2022 Horror Short Story Contest.