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Give Me An Ending

Each time my husband Charles’s career moved us to a new city, I looked through cookbooks, explored groceries, made and modified recipes. I always found comfort in creating meals and do still, for family and those who’ve become family.

I’ve done this often lately. “Cook,” I think aloud. “Gather family while you can before the bombs go off.” That’s what Charles used to say. “Before the bombs go off,” meaning personal tragedies, some hideous medical diagnosis or a phone call that delivers fall-to-the-floor pain.

The bombs are exploding. Real bombs, like the MOAB—the April 2017 Trump drop on Afghanistan that secured praise from corporate news for the megalomaniac-in-chief. Daily, we watch or read threats, threats of violence. Trump’s provocation of “fire and fury” and then his telling reporters this might not be tough enough, that North Korea “better get their act together or they’re going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world.”

Nikki Haley said North Korea is “begging for war.” I am begging for peace. Peace and peace of mind.

I know I’ve told you my mother said more than once, “It would be good for the world to just end.” I’d tell her not to talk this way in front of my children, to please control her pessimism.

I’m becoming my mother.

Because of the Internet, Texas isn’t far away. The images of Harvey’s victims (and now Irma’s) are in the news, are in my head. Here’s one of nursing home residents waiting to be evacuated. I look at the photos and videos and think of war—the displaced, people forced to flee their homes and often their countries. I see mothers who’ve had to make a decision about what to grab, mothers and their children, desperate, knowing if they stay they’ll die, uncertain of the future, or if there is one.

I look at the images of water and think about climate change, rising temperatures, rising water levels, hurricanes more destructive, more frequent. I look at the images of fires in the West and think about climate change and recklessness and arson and how we’ve neglected to nurture this planet. Even as scientists debate the possibility of life on other planets. If there is life on other planets is this life imperiling those planets? Are they as destructive as we are?

Earlier today, my guy sent this article about plastics in our drinking water. We already know about lead. Now cancer from the faucet?

I talked with my son H who lives nearby. I had to confirm that he and his wife are coming for dinner. I need to cook. I need to create, to prepare a meal. He knows my neuroses well. “Your concerns are informed by your experiences. Chase’s death. Dad’s death. You see less life ahead than what you’ve lived.” When I speak of doom and despair, he educates. “Every generation believes that he or she has lived during the best or worst of times. Some people have already suffered an apocalypse.” He’s right. Like a bomb, an apocalypse can be the huge, affecting masses, or the smaller, a family’s personal tragedy.

A few days ago, I read an op-ed by a writer who detailed reasons why he wouldn’t send money to benefit the victims of Hurricane Harvey. He suggested “tough love” and said, “Let the Texans reap what they sowed.” Because Texas voted for Donald Trump, a climate denier. Because Houston made decisions that made the devastation inevitable. I’m appalled. So appalled I searched for stories about people who sacrifice their own safety to rescue those in need.

I search and search. For hope. I don’t want to see a grim future, a landscape horrifyingly forecast by science fiction writers.

Give me an ending. Fire or ice? A bang or a whimper? Raging? Gentle into that good night?

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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