Thursday, June 5, 2014

Woman of La Mancha?

I don't remember exactly how old I was when I first watched the movie, "Man of La Mancha."  For those of you who haven't had this experience, it's a story within a story.  The first story is about a writer, actor, singer, dancer.  Unfortunately for him he writes things that a certain church disagreed with...quite actively.

He was arrested by the authority of the Inquisition.  Thrown amongst the lowest forms of humanity in jail, he performs for them.  His hope is that he will entertain the miscreants long enough to save his life until he is  burned at the stake by the Inquisition.

The play that he performs (here comes the 2nd part of the story), is about an elderly wealthy man named Don Quixote de la Mancha.  He has read and studied humanity all of his life.  He has managed to make a tidy fortune.  He "Lays down the melancholy burden of sanity...and becomes a Knight Errant."  He believes that it is his mission to make the world a much better place.  He travels with his dear friend (and former servant) Sancho Panza.

Along their journey Don Quixote teaches a poor servant girl/prostitute his principles about living a better life.  The song, "Impossible Dream," never fails to move me to tears of courage.  I'm a singer, but I can't perform this song because most people do not want to watch someone sob during their performance!

"To dream the impossible dream, to love pure and chaste from afar, to try when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star...this is my quest to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far, to fight for the right without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause, and I know if I'll only be true to this glorious quest, that my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I'm laid to my rest..."  That is a lot of words to quote but can you feel the power of them?  Good NEVER merely good enough.

Back to the poor writer in jail.  His wicked companions begin to taunt him and threaten him.  They say, "This story is dull, nobody would ever believe such foolishness.  The old man is insane."  In righteous anger the writer stands up and says, "...too much sanity may be madness.  Maddest of all is to see the world as it IS and not as it SHOULD BE!"

Our beloved oldest daughter is reaching for her dream.  This dream seems unreachable to our fiscal reality.  She wishes to return to Cambridge University to achieve her Ph.D.  She has been accepted to attend this year.  She has to raise the funds.

My husband had some of the worst health I have ever witnessed in a human on this planet.  When we married he had a colostomy, only one knee cap (and the other was already arthritic), his spine was collapsing in on itself, and one year later he was diagnosed with diabetes.

Did he quit living?  He certainly had enough reason to contemplate that idea.  He went back to college (while he had his own graphic design business at home, and also produced, directed, wrote, acted, and even danced on a very limited basis).  The pain from his back was so severe that after walking on campus for several hours his legs would refuse to hold him up.  So he would drag himself back to our car.  (We couldn't afford an electric wheelchair and he couldn't wheel himself, oh did I mention that his neck had started to develop serious problems?)

One day when he was almost graduated from college he said to me, "I think that I should go to Law School.  My body is failing but my mind is still really strong.  I could be an attorney from a wheelchair."

Talk about your Impossible Dream.  How could a man with all of his health problems possibly ever cope with the rigorous studies required at a Law School?  In addition, again, he found ways to earn money to help support our family.  He would not take pain medicine to help with the excruciating nerve pain that he now had.  He said that it dulled his mind.

He graduated as a Cornelius Honor Student.  A year after he graduated he was hired at his alma mater as Associate Dean of Career Services.  He adored that position.  One year after he had been hired by the school he had a a stroke, incurable eye cancer was discovered in one eye (that was threatening to go to his brain), and an incurable disease that was granulating the soft tissue of his throat, heart, and lungs.  He could not speak, and he was bed ridden for almost three years.

Again, he pulled himself back, reinvented himself, and found ways to earn money.  Nyle would just simply NEVER give up on life.  He fought diligently, and joyously until he died at the too young age of 54.

I do not tell this story about Nyle to make you feel sorry or pity for our family.  Indeed we are well aware of the many blessings that we have received.  Nyle was supposed to die so many times that we all joked that he was like a cat.  Only he had far more than a mere nine lives!  When he and I married we knew that he might not live a year.  We got to keep him for twenty-seven.  We have never lacked for family and friends in our times of greatest need.  We are ever so grateful for the gift that Nyle taught us of finding joy in even the hardest of times.  His motto was simple but living by it is not, "Happy Not Crappy."  That means that happiness is not a matter of sitting back and waiting for more pleasant circumstances to come our way.  Happiness is a constant, conscious choice.  We CAN be happy even when circumstances would indicate otherwise.

I have no doubt that Ardis will achieve her dream, even if it seems impossible in our circumstances.  She is the daughter of a father who showed by his loving example to never give up...never, NEVER give up!  He showed us, by his example,  how to keep dreaming the Impossible Dream.

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