Wicked. If an old lady can be wicked, Doris was wicked. She had a razor sharp sense of humour, the knowing twinkle in her eyes that only the elderly can have, a fearless way of speaking her mind. She sat behind me in church and would occasionally lean forward as if in prayer and whisper to me - "Is it warm in here or is this sermon just hell?" And then she'd sit back with a saintly smile as if she had just communed with God rather than gossiped with me.
I like people who are a bundle of contradictions. People who's characters are a bit hard to describe. I actually kind of like some of the feedback I get on my lectures because the same lecture can sound like there were two different lecturers. "Too many references to God - too religious" "I found his swearing obscene - I didn't come here to hear words like 'shit'" Good - I'm an equal opportunity offence maker. But people are like that aren't they? People are confusing.
Anyways, back to Doris. She told me once that every Christmas she gave herself a little gift. I loved the idea immediately - buy yourself something for Christmas, ensure yourself that you get at least one gift you actually like. So I asked her what she was getting herself this year. She said, "Oh, I get the same gift every year."
"What would that be?"
"I forgive someone." She said.
When seeing the confusion on my face she continued, "Forgiveness isn't something you give someone else, it's something you give yourself. It means that you get to lay down anger and resentment. The older you get, the less you want to carry. So every year, I forgive someone. I reach out to someone that I've been angry with and just get it over with.
I've been thinking about Doris these last few days. There is someone I've been angry with for years. I don't think much about 'someone' anymore. But it's still there, the anger and bitterness. It's mellowed and melded as part of my personality. And suddenly, a year older now, I don't know if I want to carry this any more. That maybe it's time to lay it down. To admit that maybe I had part in this too ... that it's time to let go.
I shouldn't have needed Doris to teach me this - not this year. In the last year I have learned with certainty that my wheelchair does not disable me. That the only inabilities that matter are the ones of the heart and mind. The incapacity to love when love is needed. The inability to understand when understanding is needed. I know this - but Doris is an old woman and her knowing has the patina of antique wood, it has depth. I'm aging, sure, but my knowing is still has the sparkle of sun on water - it disappears in the face of clouds. But I've decided, I'm going to 'Doris' my Christmas this year.
But honestly, the thought of Doris's traditon slightly frightens me. Oddly, I've defined myself partly in reaction, partly in contrast, what will I be without this in me.
It dawns on me.