Elusive, intimacy turns up in strange and pleasant ways

Elusive, intimacy turns up in strange and pleasant ways
When I look up and look around, I find that intimacy has eluded me most of my life. She appeared and disappeared, like a duck diving underwater for food: submerging, vanishing, and then popping up some yards away.

Intimacy presents herself in the sharing of homemade soup, in watching a Fisher King light on cat tails and while observing baby Canada goslings waddle faithfully behind their mother.

Intimacy turns up in church pews, where in huge stillness friends and strangers sit shoulder-to-shoulder, holding out hope.

Throughout my life, intimacy has been present in strange ways, as well. Take, for example, years ago during one of my many trips to my parents' home in Los Angeles, when intimacy's massive doors swung wide open.

I was there to help Dad take care of Mom after her stroke. One day, when Dad came home from the grocery store with blue chips and hot salsa, I learned that intimacy has a sense of humor.

"Look what I bought for you," he chirped. I gazed skeptically at the bag of purplish-blue corn snacks, my mouth already burning from the thought of hot sauce.

"Let's dig in," I replied. There, with my Dad and me over blue chips and salsa, intimacy danced.

Another time, while Dad was napping, my mom asked me, "Did my sister Angie die while I was in the hospital?"

Stalling, hoping to gain "instant" knowledge on what to say, I busied myself.

"Did she die when I was in the hospital, Paula?" Mom repeated. I stopped what I was doing and turned to look directly into Mom's blank stare, which suspected the answer.

"Yes, Mom, Aunt Angie passed away last week." My words drew a cold, unforgiving line between my mother's life and her sister's death.

"Yes" made me the unskilled, unprepared herald. "Yes" put me in a most frightening and intimate place with my mom.

Another time, actually the following morning at 3 a.m., I was roused by a distant deep roaring, which was followed by the bed and floor rumbling. I recognized it as a tremor – although I had never been in or near a tremor.

As I lay cradled in earth's angry wake, I winced at the sound of her aching drone, and felt one with nature in a vulnerable, intimate way.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her column writing has won first-place national and state awards in The Federation of Press Women competitions. For more information, e-mail pauladamon@iw.net.

� 2007 Paula Damon

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