“Forty days and forty nights Moses was in the desert!” the Dominie almost shouted, punctuating his incomplete phrases. “And he prayed. Brothers and sisters. Prayed! He got down on his knees for forty days and forty nights! Forty! And prayed! Now that. That! Is Faith!”
I wondered when the man slept. What he ate. When he peed. If his knees got tired. I wondered if he kept a calendar, if he drew marks in the sand, toed the line? I wondered why the ‘40’? It often repeated itself as a biblical episode. A metaphor? An allegory? Of course, I was thirteen at the time, and I was about to make my break from things of The Faith. I was determining just how to backslide; but I had to choose my time. I needed inner resolution. I knew it would take courage. A boy does not announce himself (a thing of that measure) to his family until he feels sure he can take on the consequences. And I knew a whipping would ensue, that great shame would attend my name, that all and sundry would hear how I went the way of the devil. As indeed, they did.
The lessons repeat and repeat until we are ready to release ourselves to the next level. And now as a man I am once more faced with a line in the sand. It was of my own choosing. The sense of five weeks (with travel time adding two and a half days at either end) came to the number 40, the which I did not in actuality plan. The travel agent announced the number as he made the booking for me. It sounded at once biblical. And so forty days and forty nights it became. And I was all along determined to make it my stay. But now, things have gotten in the way.
Each page of M’Lady’s memoir is an art form. Each is a file. To make too many pages a file, and then to have to alter, edit, or add a thing seriously ruins hours of meticulous layout. Text boxes, differently sized photographs, and differentiated presentations make for an interesting read. One hardly wants page upon page of nothing but text, like a novel. This memoir has its own need to keep one fascinated with new discoveries. And so, at over two hundred-plus pages, the work continues. Thing is, were I to fold it up, unfinished, in the week that I have left, it will not get off the ground. It will remain on its knees, praying for my return. For whatever reasons, there is no one in Nancy’s family able to continue this task, willing to continue, interested enough in learning how to do it. I am the man! And the publisher is set and waiting for the manuscript. And Nancy turns 91 on April 1st. I’d be a fool to pack it in now.
Our footsteps in the sands of time need cementing, or they’ll be lost forever. Ask Lucy. Ask Tyrannosaurus Rex. And it is not that we are so significant that our exact names be the ones to be discovered, but that our passage, our efforts, our intentions be recorded for posterity; be made into a product. It does not suffice for me to say I tried, not when I am this close. So I will stay away from my home, and I will serve here where I am more intensely involved for now, for that is what this mission has demanded of me, of its own accord. My five weeks shall become eight.
By two a.m., most mornings, I am at this work. I polish last night's essay (like this essay) that I drafted at about ten p.m. the night before (even as I now type). And between those hours I devote myself entirely to the work at hand. Meals are momentary respites. Conversation gets curtailed. I am called to a compartmentalized view of the world, and like Moses I think only of what I must do.