They cut the tumor out of his brain and the surgeon held up his fist to show that it was “this big”, but I picture a huge, oozing cone of blackberry gelato. That early May day, the sun shined like July, but then for days and days clouds blocked the sun and rain fell like endless April.
After a few hours, he leaves recovery, after a few days, he leaves intensive care, after a couple more days he leaves the hospital, after a couple weeks, he leaves the rehabilitation center, and in a few months, he leaves skilled nursing, and in a few months, or more than a few, they say he will leave us with hearts breaking.
He is the guy who sees into my soul, who rambles freely along the paths of my conscience and rummages amid the cavities of my heart. We share our recoveries from alcoholism, our experiences with humanity, our perversions, perplexities and pleasures. Weekly breakfasts at McDonalds / lunches at Wendy’s twist threads into yarn, weave yarn into gauze that wraps our wounds, warms our extremities, crowns our glory.
Sponsor is a loaded word in recovery – a shape that alters to fit every stage of recovery and, sometimes, the absence of recovery, and to bind radically different personalities and long-lost clones. Sponsorship is a laboratory for intimacy, freedom from denial, escape from isolation, the passport granting entry to the possibility of faith, access to realms of the spirit.
Now, of course, he cannot say my name, because that part of his brain is groping for traction, but, he does see me and his gentle, vibrant spirit greets me. He is now unburdened with the functional, practical, practiced aspects of manhood and, hopefully, his therapists and treatments will restore these, but for now, the divine in him, the spirit that triggered his acceptance and ignited his recovery from addiction and sustains him through all the demanding, frustrating, thrilling, icky and gratifying events over multiple decades of sobriety – shines. Together, we aspire to be centered and settled: what better measure of faith, of sharing belief, of “knowing” God?
Years ago, we left the restaurant and already at full throttle, veered toward our cars until he paused, hooted and motioned me to him. His embrace, then and every leave-taking since, affirms that our merged mass secures our soles to the surface of the earth and our souls to heaven.
Pelagius: it matters less that we believe in Christ than that we behave as Christ. My heartfelt faith is schooled, disciplined, grounded in rigor and ritual; his is unframed, casual, settled in curiosity and doubt; and, thus unfettered, perhaps his faith exceeds my own. Regardless, the coming days, weeks, months… will reveal the Source of the generous love that makes us friends, keeps us sober and finally, leads us to be settled at the Center of All. Amen.