Why Blame O’Henry?

Though blaming dead white guys is trending and, it should be noted that many of them have earned it, this is not an attempt to jump on that bandwagon. It is merely my attempt to connect the dots of a circuitous life in linear fashion in an effort to explain the inexplicable and feel better about myself at the expense of someone who cannot defend himself. And mind you, I am fully aware that there is plenty of blame to go around. In fact, the English teacher who introduced me to short stories including that penned by the offending and titular O’Henry, and the boarding school where I attended and he taught have their share in this all too familiar tale of woe and should by rights pay their share of restitution and apology. Onward.

Life is full of suffering, sorrow and missed opportunity. Take for instance the serial comma missing after the word sorrow in the preceding sentence. I left it out intentionally. I feel commas before conjunctions are superfluous and the language, at least punctuation, too fluid for my tastes and those who inserted it after I left school are too idle for their own good or ours. But a further example from my “one wild and precious life“, Mary Oliver, would be the fact that just when I am on the precipice of accepting the toddler in my foster care “for better or worse, till death do us part”, I am quite cognizant that the remote (and therefore likely) possibility exists that at next month’s hearing, two weeks shy of a year of white nights and dark days, (actually, by comparison, I won the lottery, she was easy lifting except for her exceptional size) she could be remanded to the custody of one or the other of her parents.

How do I know this? For starters, and knowing is entirely separate and apart from the chorus sung during ten weeks’ foster licensing class of don’t count your chickens before they hatch – aka don’t delude yourself into thinking the first child you foster will be the one you adopt. I recall distinctly that just before they (not my daughter’s parents) broke up, I had a dream in which I found my former boyfriend’s then-current girlfriend beautiful. She had been introduced to me as a model at which time I had sneered and given her the disapproving once-over internally. In any case, he reached me in the final month of grad school with the news, came to drive me and my cats back across the country and we were married shortly thereafter despite the evidence, near-literal writing on the wall, that surfaced during a meditation class I took as the wedding date approached in which I, in my windswept, seaside bungalow stood barefoot, wearing salmon capris and a coral colored tee-shirt, tying a bowtie on my fiancé who was wearing a tuxedo. Hint: I was preparing him for a wedding – not joining him at ours.

lastleafAltruism, though a field of interest, is not my hobby. It is the result of my religious and academic conditioning, and perhaps one way to explain teaching at community colleges for more than two decades. Enter, O’Henry.

I submit to you that, were it not for that impassioned reading of the tragic tale of self-sacrifice I was subjected to at the susceptible age of a seventh or eighth-grader – so far away from home at boarding school, I too, would have been free to ignore the overwhelming need of the 400,000 children in care nationwide (30,00 in Nevada alone) to become the long-lived artist curmudgeon I was destined by genetic predisposition and sensitive introvert‘s temperament to become. I mean ten years ago when I was volunteering as a cuddler at the UMC NICU fostering to adopt might have made sense. In fact, in hindsight, it still seems like it was a good idea for someone just leaning in to middle age. But now?

Why Blame O’Henry?

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