Today’s sermon is a friend writing from her Parisian vacation that she’s come down with Covid. It’s the fourth date I didn’t have with the former rock star on account of all his coughing.
It’s my sneeze that might be something, but doesn’t go anywhere, and packing a covid test in my bag just in case.
It’s the half and half I forgot to buy two days in a row, and wondering whether I can eat the two plums and the head of broccoli in my refrigerator before I head out of town.
And that moment this morning when I saw the four brown bananas that were going bad. I moved to throw them out, then felt wrong – like, what a waste. And I think about that a lot; all the clothes stuffed in my drawers and hanging in my closet, and how so often it’s not the shirt, or the boots, or the bananas that I want – but something more primal, something deeper that I don’t know how to name.
Today’s sermon is the way the man on the phone asked me if I was lonely, and how quickly I said no, like he’d asked me if I’d tracked dog shit on my shoe from the yard. “No,” I said, without considering the question, and the way I tried to explain it to him, but how my words got mangled and didn’t make sense. It was the way he got quiet as he listened to me.
Today’s sermon is that moment a few years ago at the kitchen sink when my younger brother asked me if I thought we knew how to love. He was talking about me and him and our two sisters. He was asking me if I thought our parents had shown us how to do it – whether we knew how to trust people, were willing to expose ourselves, or knew how to need something from another person.
And how when he asked me – we were in our 50’s – I felt like we might as well have been 7 and 8-years-old, me and my little brother standing in front of our house in L.A. in 1968, and he’s asking me if the stray dog standing in front of us might bite, and how I had to make something up – back then and now – that no, the dog wouldn’t bite, and yes of course we knew how to love.
Today’s sermon is the roll of flesh hanging over my jeans, the wet hair on my shoulder, the way the cat nipped my heels when I let him in this morning – maybe a punishment for keeping him out all night – though I explained, as I dished out the wet food, that I’d tried to find him, had called his name in the dark before I turned out the light.
That I do mean to love…
My children, the quiet of the morning, the hum of the house, coffee with cream, my mother…
Who sailed through Covid months ago, but who is now certain that she’s losing her mind. “Aren’t we all?” I say to her on Facetime, but she’s serious, and I think mostly scared because she’s 85-year-old and the path ahead is narrowing. And so I cock my head, and tell her that this sounds age appropriate, pandemic appropriate, but I can tell by the way she looks at me that she’s having none of it.
One day I’ll say something just like this to my daughters, and I can already imagine the way they’ll half listen to me, just like I’m half listening to my mother now, nodding and thinking she’s being dramatic. I can already feel the loneliness that I’ll feel then as they cock their heads and nod at me.
Today’s sermon is the way life keeps flooding me with something like love; the cat nipping at my heel, the dog that might just bite, bananas going brown, my mother telling me she’s scared, the half lie I tell my brother to help him sleep at night. Of course we know how to love, of course we do.
This piece was inspired by the poem, Today’s Sermon, by Cheryl Dumesnil
Listen to Laurie read the piece here –