Deus escreve certo em linhas tortas. God writes straight in crooked lines. I heard the Portuguese saying long before I came to Portugal, and long before I even had a smattering of the language.
Caring for the other one, my beloved, that taught me compassion. I prayed constantly to Jesus, pleading to know what it meant to have a compassionate heart. He showed me all right. It is the finding of a soft, sweet voice and a firm kind touch, when all around swirls blood and guts and gore, rank with the smell of excrement. Pure love, so it is. Not earthly love. Pure love. Simple.
I have to recall this, for a spiritual reckoning is necessary as I embark on my next copyediting job, a book about the message of Our Lady of Fátima. You see, in the three years since my beloved died, I have not deciphered much in the crooked handwriting of God.
It seems He has taken up His pen again. Via a long and winding path by word of mouth half-way around the globe and back again, news of this work reached my ears.
So, thanks, Jesus, for the lesson on compassion. And the lesson on grief. (And the many blessings you shower on me daily – lest you think me ungrateful.) Can we move on to the power of discernment and finding le mot juste now?
I remember holding his hand as he led our family in prayer when his father died.
The strength of his faith coursed through his firm grip, but I saw he had tears in his eyes and his voice plummeted to gravel now and then. One or two adults among us shifted awkwardly, for their faith was not as strong, but they persisted in the ritual. For all were joined by sadness and family ties as we held our similar-looking hands together.
The catapult of years is swift and now he, my uncle who loved his Lord — for that’s what he said years later — is dead.
All I can think of, apart from the warmth of spirit in his hands, was that he told us kids that there was an insect inside a mango pip, and we should try to get it out. I don’t know if that’s true. In the forty-six years since, I have never been able to open a mango pip.
I am writing an online test today. That is what was scheduled to start five minutes ago.
I have just shot a quick e-mail to the agency managing the tests. Should I mention that these tests are a repeat of a test done in late October in the previous decade? My enthusiasm for this activity wanes with each passing minute. Next, my patience will begin to erode.
In the meantime, I have received three e-mails. One is advertising cheap accommodation near an airport I travelled to 18 months ago. As if I would go back there…
Oh, look, a new e-mail from the agency telling me that the tests for translation in the direction opposite to the one I travel in have been received. Let’s wait a little longer, she says, for the test that I am supposed to be doing. I don’t have all day, I think. And then I remember that there is always that expression beginning with F.
I still plan to have T-shirts, or tea towels emblazoned that on it, by the way. Ah, but what about my reputation? The test people have got another 15 minutes of my time. And after that’s done, forget it.
My builder father was very good at mental arithmetic. He played games with us as kids. How many years’ difference between his year of birth and my mother’s? 4. How old would I be in the year 2000? 36. And how old would he be? 65. And how old would I be in 2020. I said 56, and I was right. And then I said he would be 85. He said oh no, he would not be alive by then. He was right.