I’ve been on a business trip this week to Lhasa, Tibet and Chengdu, Sichuan and, is my habit for such trips, wanted a good long book to take so that I can associate the story with this trip. In Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, I’ve been reading about Marion and Shiva Stone, twin boys born in Ethiopia to an Indian mother who died at their birth and a British father who abandoned them at that time as well. They were raised by two other Indian doctors in Ethiopia. At one point Ghosh, their adopted dad, had been accused of participating in a coup and taken to prison.
That night Shiva and I slept with Hema [Mom] in her bed. Ghosh’s Brylcreem scent was on the pillow. His books were piled on the nightstand with a pen wedged in French’s Index of Differential Diagnosis to mark a page, and his reading glasses balanced precariously on the cover. His bedtime rituals of inspecting his profile and sucking his belly in and out ten times, of lying across the mattress for a few minutes so his head hung back over the edge – “antigravity” maneuvers, as he called them – were unexciting, but in his absence, their importance was revealed. “Another day in paradise” was his inevitable pronouncement when he settled his head on his pillow. Now I understood what that meant: the uneventful day was a precious gift. The three of us lay and waited as if he’d just gone to the kitchen and would fill the doorway any second. Hema sobbed. She voiced our thoughts when she said, “Lord, I promise never to take that man for granted again.”
The uneventful day is a precious gift. As I come to the end of the trip and will be heading off in a few hours for the airport, I feel the truth of these. It’s been good to see co-workers and their lives. It really has! But I’m hoping to uneventfully fly back to Beijing, finish this book, and reconnect with people over The Biggest Loser tonight – I’ve heard it was a good episode this week! It is these rituals, like Ghosh’s, that add the flavoring to what can become so routine we fail to notice the precious gift we have been given: the day before us.