I packed to move into Natvar’s school. It didn’t take long. I threw out every letter Geoffrey had ever sent me, from the very first one declaring his love for me, and put a few boxes of books in storage with my mother. My parents and youngest sister, Agnes, had found a small cottage to rent by the month and weren’t living in someone’s spare room anymore. My mother was working a few jobs she found in the local paper – taking care of babies or old people. Although she had once worked as a biochemist, decades away from the field had left her obsolete, she said. My father too had a job from the local paper, a few hours of bookkeeping and some night work as a security guard.
There was no city work anymore for him it seemed. No more office in a skyscraper. No more secretary and business lunches. No more international business trips. My mother said he had to do something. I knew he hated doing anything for an hourly wage. He was supposed to be a great statesman, a great writer, a wealthy, recognized man.
A few months before he’d made one last stab at reviving his old self. It smelled of failure from the moment he showed me the three-ring binder he had assembled – black and white photographs of houses for sale. He’d gotten his real estate license. With the last couple thousand dollars left from the sale of the house, he said, he was going to the Arab Emirates for a week. He knew a couple of people there from the golden years of his career and he’d try and make a sale.
“How about I go pick up Dad?” I had said to my mother on the phone when the day of his return arrived. Whoever picked him up from the airport would have to also deliver the news that the one good car they had, the only thing of value, a fairly new Suburu, had just been totaled by Agnes. She hadn’t been hurt.
I volunteered, knowing how fragile my father was going to feel, returning from this doomed junket to learn that he didn’t have that car anymore. How were they to get another? I had no idea. There was no money anywhere. My mother had been going to work on a motorized bicycle until she’d had an accident just after my return from Nova Scotia. She’d been in the hospital for days, her jaw wired shut.
I was used to that feeling of no money anywhere -- the sense of lack and not enough and everything desirable being beyond reach – since we had returned from England when I was in high school. That was the first time my father didn’t have a job. But the sense of lack had gone into the red zone with my father’s sale of the house to pay his credit card debt.
And I was used to the sense that my father needed comforting and that, in the family, I was the best qualified. I knew I was the person he’d be happiest to see.
I picked him up that day, surmising immediately from his downcast expression and rumpled suit that the black and white photographs had produced nothing, and I had broken the news about the car. As we pulled out of JFK, my father spoke grimly from the passenger seat, “I have not felt this low since I was in New Haven,” and I knew he was talking about when he had been a young immigrant with no English, forced to take menial work, and of the suicide attempt that landed him in the hospital where my mother visited in the earliest days of their courtship. No one had ever said that my father tried to overdose on pills, but the hospital stay had been spoken of, and his deep depression at the time, and I just knew what the missing piece was.
When Natvar had told me how much rent I’d pay for the back room at the Institute, it was about $25 more than I had expected. But I didn’t complain. That would have been embarrassing. And probably wrong. Baba in his book always talked about how the good disciple did not try to change things, but was accepting of what came his way.
Natvar and Mark were waiting for me at the Institute on the January night when I moved in. They were hanging a bright saffron-colored curtain across the opening to my new room. Mark was up on a stepladder, Natvar handing him nails. The little room did not have a window. “This is your monk’s room!” Natvar called out with his brightest, warmest smile. “Baba must love you very much to want you under this room!”
I smiled. I felt the warmth and welcome of Mark and Natvar. The lights were bright in the Institute, and the thought that Baba, even though we couldn’t see him could tell I was special felt very real. When I looked at the picture of Baba on the cover of the book I was reading it felt like a real person was looking back at me with a gentle, encouraging smile. My friends didn’t know this side of me, but Baba did.
I would be here for awhile, I thought, like I’d been everywhere else. I would do everything Baba said to do: repeat that mantra, meditate, serve, serve, serve, and then something would happen – that freedom would be unleashed. If he had done it, so could I. And this was more important than writing. And I hadn’t been a real writer anyway. This though – this yoga path – I was certain I could succeed at that.
Causes Marta Szabo Supports
I have supported Obama since before he declared his candidacy. I particularly support organizations that advocate for animals.