Isabel was the consummate backwards planner. Even on Saturdays her mind worked this way. If she had a hair appointment at two and it was a 30-minute drive: that brought her to 1:30. She knew she needed to shower and dress after a run bringing her to 12:30 for getting home. The run itself took another hour so she had to begin no later than 11:30. House cleaning took three hours and put her at 8:30. She set the alarm for 8:00.
But she hadn’t backwards planned for love, dropping out of college, getting married or having children.
A year after she walked her youngest to the bus stop she met Adam at the park for lunch. Holding his hand and twisting his wedding band, she said, “ I would like to go back to school. I need a goal. Now I’m just the neighborhood phone-a-friend. Need a meal served to the sick?—call Isabel. Need a last-minute baby-sitter?—call Isabel. I’m in a holding pattern—I don’t seem to be showing up on God’s radar screen.”
•Isabel sat mesmerized by the printed words as they went in and out of focus. She kept an ear listening to Professor Brentwood’s lecture. “—And both had theories on the best way to formulate fiction.” This was the last class she needed. She hoped the part-time job she had waiting for her upon graduation would ease the built-up pressure.
“—no right or wrong. Poe’s theory was that you have to know how the story is going to end before you begin.” She agreed with Poe, but Adam might not.
“You’ve abandoned everyone!” he had yelled over a year ago when she missed a second family reunion because of summer sessions. “You are so driven; there’s no ‘us’ anymore. It’s all about you.”
“Poe believed,” her professor continued, “knowing the end allowed you to control the twists and turns along the way thereby adding to the cohesiveness of the whole—‘unity of effect’ is what he called it.”
Isn’t that what all humans wanted—a nice cohesive story that made sense—unlike last night.
Adam had come home early while she was analyzing two poems by Robert Frost. In another half hour, she could have been done.
“Hello Adam,” she said not getting up. He strolled lightly into the kitchen, shoulders back as if he hadn't a single worry in this world. “I guess you’ve had a good day?”
“I have as a matter of fact.” He smiled. Isabel leaned back in her chair.
“Well, what happened? I haven’t seen you like this—in a while.” She imitated a laugh.
“I had an interesting lunch with Bert today.” With a flick of the wrist, he pulled airline tickets from his back pocket. “These tickets are for you and me, baby! We’re headed to Brazil—Sao Paolo—at that—spending two weeks at an orphanage, before we’re off on a rainforest adventure!”
“What—you’re kidding?” Isabel jumped out of her chair. “What about the kids?”
“I can be a planner myself—thank you very much. Your parents are coming for the entire month.”
“I can’t believe it! You’re joking aren’t you?”
“Nope. Bert’s wife broke her hip and she’ll be in a cast through October. They prayed about it and we came to their minds and he remembered how I had told him that Brazil had been a dream of yours.”
“October— I can’t leave in October—what about school?”
“Frost, on the other hand, believed in ‘a melting.’” Isabel looked up from the swimming words. “—You’re not sure how the story will end or even develop, but you begin. Then just like a melting piece of ice traveling on an uncontrolled course, it finds its way. Often the writer is just as surprised as the reader because the result is more magnificent than anything he could have planned.”
She disagreed. Knowing the end gave meaning to life.
“Doesn’t that waste a lot of time?” Isabel said out loud. “You could just meander all over the place and accomplish nothing.”
“I suppose that’s true,” said Professor Brentwood, “if you don’t enjoy the process—the journey. If your goal is the end itself.”
“Oh—well can you use a combination—keep the end in mind but open yourself up to how you’ll get there?”
“You can do it any way you want.”
Adam was right; she always had to hear it from someone else.
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