The Toppling of the Towers

I play computer Solitaire.  A lot.  It started when I discovered it as a free game on our first family home computer, and it grew into an obsession.  I play at rocket speed, timing myself to see how quickly I can sort the cards until they are organized into neat piles.

You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to figure this out.  I hate chaos and disorder.  I detest clutter.  And I have formed a pattern of coping with problems alone.  It began when I was a young woman in an unhealthy relationship.  Grey clouds would gather, the air would thicken, and rumblings would be heard from a distance.  Slowly, deliberately, the sky darkened and large raindrops randomly splashed against the pavement, and then, little by little, they quickened.  Soon there was nothing but chaos- crashes of thunder, flashes of lightning, rain like sheets falling from billowing masses of black and gray.  When they passed, I never talked about the storms.  When the sun again emerged, I would smile, clean the debris, and act as if nothing had happened. 

I did this for years, until I could no more.  Finally, I began a new chapter of my life and on a different computer, learned a new version of the Solitaire game.   This version was harder, requiring much strategy and careful maneuvering.  I lost more than I won.   Still, I sorted and organized and piled the cards into neat harmonious groups.  It was systematic.  Orderly.  Tidy.  But a few weeks ago, after I successfully finished a game, I realized that once the piles are completely sorted they topple, crashing to the ground where they shatter into small bits and shards.

I have thought about this a lot. From the moment we are born, we crave the company others.  Babies know this. We can feed them and change them and wrap them in the finest of blankets, but sometimes they cry because they just need to be held.  They nestle into our arms and snuggle their heads into the crook of our necks.  When they get scared, they run to their parents, holding up chubby little hands to be lifted to the safety of a daddy’s shoulder or a mother’s lap. 

Animals know this. They herd together for warmth and safety.  Elephants form protective circles around an injured or weak family member.  Puppies and kittens lie so closely when nursing from their mother that it is hard to tell one from another.  Ants move in armies, relying on the strength of the group to bear a load that greatly outweighs each soldier.  Horses bay and whinny when one is removed from the other’s eyesight.  Sheep move as one when lead from the pasture to the fold.

This lesson has never been so obvious as it has during the past month.  My mother, the hub of the mighty wheel of my family, has become ill.  The knowledge that she will not be with us for long emerged from a vague distant fog and has become glaring and stark.  She has always been there, soft and warm, with strong arms that pull us close to her breast.  She has taught me how to live, how to laugh, how to love. Imagining life without her leaves me with flowing eyes, and a lump in my throat that cannot be swallowed.  I want to run from this, to hide in my game of Solitaire.  To sort and order and make neat piles. 

But as I watched the cards topple from their towers, I remembered that life was never meant to be a game of Solitaire.  A different strategy is needed.  Instead, I reached out to my siblings, my children, my nieces and nephews, my cousins, my friends.   We did not sort ourselves. We did not pile into congruent towers of like suits. Instead, we formed a circle.  And here we stay.  We stand together, shoulder to shoulder, supporting each other’s weight, wiping each other’s tears, bearing each other’s burdens.  In the circle, there are no towers to tumble, no crashing of cards to shatter on the floor.  Towers fall when they are stacked too high. Circles widen to embrace new members. 

I will always try to sort my life into neat, orderly piles.  And I will always live my life with a healthy sense of independence.  But in the days ahead, Solitaire will be played on my computer.  Life is a team game, to be shared with the people I love.  If you look, you’ll find an opening in the circle.  Come on in.

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6 Comments

  1. Paul C

     /  December 7, 2010

    I always read; but I never post. Usually that is… I very much enjoyed this offering, It is to my mind – quintessential garrie and as always directly to the heart of the matter.

    My thoughts are with you and your family in this and the times ahead.

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  2. Kerri

     /  December 8, 2010

    Hi Elizabeth’s mom. She shared this site with me and I am so glad she did. What a gifted writer you are. I am praying for your mom and that E will make it home to visit before your mom goes home to be with Jesus. I know your mother is so ready–how lovely that is also. I look forward to meeting you sometime soon. We love your daughter! Blessings to you and yours. Merry Christmas. Kerri (Cory’s mom)

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    • Garrie Madison Stoutimore

       /  December 8, 2010

      Hi Kerri!
      I’m so glad you like the blog. Feel free to pass it on- that’s the point of it. And thank you for your prayers.

      Like

      Reply
  3. Garrie,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. I’ll keep her and your family in my prayers.
    Jackie

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    • Garrie Madison Stoutimore

       /  December 8, 2010

      Thanks, Jackie. I think you had her for a teacher, didn’t you?

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      Reply
  4. Yes, I think I did. On another note, I hope your recovery from your surgery goes well.

    Jackie

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