I went upstairs, gripping the rail, shaking a bit because I hadn't been out of bed in twenty-four hours and somehow that ten-day hospital stay seems to have siphoned off all the hard-earned hiking muscle in my legs.
I'd slept all day, almost right through the feast of my favourite saint, and missed taking my meds which doesn't help with the shaking, and watched far, far too many episodes of my current medical drama on Netflix because my brain and body were refusing to do much else. I felt pathetic and cynical and everything was stupid. So stupid.
My Dad was showing my three youngest siblings, grouped around the kitchen for a pre-bedtime snack-and-kitten-cuddling-session, a video on his phone. A calm voice discussed the different theories on when human life begins (at conception? with the heartbeat? at birth?) and science's findings on each, relative to the abortion debate. The video ended, and everyone had thoughts and opinions and ideas about what the voice had said. Somehow that led into a discussion of evolution vs. creationism, literal vs. metaphorical interpretations of the Bible, and what Church council was it that determined the canon of scripture? Neither my Dad nor I could remember. Everybody was teaching and learning from each other, and these kids are only nine and twelve and fifteen, but they're thinking about the Big Questions every day, asking about the meaning of life before bed over kittens and mango ice cream, and dear God I'm just in awe but I hope I can be half as amazing a parent as my parents are, if I get the chance, that I can teach my kids to think about life before bed.
Everyone went up to brush their teeth, and my fifteen-year-old brother (in his too-small pyjamas riding halfway to the knee) cornered me on the stairs to confide that today he had finally paid off all his debt, but now he was broke.
"Yes," he said with that innocent, otherworldly smile far too big for his face, tugging at his pyjama cuff. "I had this huge thirty-dollar debt to Mom, but I finally paid it off today and I'm so relieved."
I told him good for him, and confessed that I owe a lot more than thirty dollars--wishing (privately) that I could spare a few for his happy broke self.
"Oh, that's okay," he said. "Money is kind of worthless. When I'm grown-up, as long as I have enough money to eat, I don't think I really need any more than that. I think it's good not to have too much money."
He went off to bed, and left me thinking.
Isn't everything like that? Money, possessions, energy, health, mango ice cream and hiking muscles. As long as you have enough to get by, now, in this moment, this space, this point where time meets eternity, does all the rest matter?
I went on a two-month hiking pilgrimage once, with no money, just my toothbrush and dulcimer and a pair of black socks. The point was to do without. But there are bigger things to learn to do without than cash. Maybe, for me right now, independence is one of them.
Maybe right now, my pilgrimage is a shaky one up the stairs to the kitchen, gripping the rail.
Maybe my shrine is kittens and ice cream and a bunch of Big Questions with my little brothers and sister before bed.
Maybe they're my saints, these funny little people with their small pyjamas and their big thoughts.
I love you, little saints. Keep thinking.