An Updated Pandora's Box
If you were to visit my home, you would find it very neat and orderly. However, all too often, I do not dust enough. Therefore, as I was in the process of doing some laundry a couple Saturdays ago, I decided to get caught up on needed dust removal. I went to my bureau, which contains an array of Chinese treasures along with two sets of family pictures. In addition, there is a small pine box, which I made for my father when I was nine years old.
I was about to dust the wooden box when it suddenly started to talk to me. "So you think that I need to get dusted. Well, over the years, all things acquire the dust of time." As the wooden box started the conversation, I looked at the box carefully that I had made many decades before. It was about six inches long and three inches high and wide. On the top of the box, I had painted an interesting seascape with two red sailboats sailing together on a calm sea. Three seagulls hovered overhead on a clear day with only two clouds in the sky. I marveled at my ability at painting what I consider an artistically picturesque scene especially for a young child not even ten years old. However, I did not print well the word, DaddY on the side of the box.
As I held the box and examined it closely, as I thought, the box did not speak. It merely paused and allowed me to remember a time long ago. After a couple minutes, the box resumed speaking, "I bring back memories; don't I?" Still in thought, I merely nodded.
After a few moments, I slowly began talking about the time, which I gave my father the box. My family had just moved to Pittsburgh. We had a new home in a new community. It was like a new beginning in my young life.
"Yes, it was a new beginning for your entire family. You began your journey, as did your two younger brothers. You all went to school and then off to college. It was a time for you and your brothers to sail off into your own lives. That is what life is all about. Parents prepare their children for their lives, which lie ahead on the sea of life.
"However, I remained at home with your mother and father. Things were not as pleasant for them; were they? You mother had had a bout with breast cancer. Then she developed a very bad case of rheumatoid arthritis, which crippled her as a middle-aged mother. Finally, she developed lupus, which she dealt with for nearly two decades before her death.
I told the box that I recall the many years of suffering that she faced. While it was not pleasant for my brothers and me to watch her failing, I cannot imagine what she went through.
"I saw her every day during that tragic timeline of her life. It was not pleasant. There were also money problems living in Mt. Lebanon, which was an extremely wealthy community."
I agreed about the financial strains that it placed on the family. The entire family suffered due to my dad wanting to provide the best education for his boys, which was in Mt. Lebanon. However, we did not have nearly as much money as did most of the other families living in Mt. Lebanon.
"The money situation was a problem; I could see that. However, the negative effects of the financial problems were seen far more in the medical lives of your parents. Worrying about money for your mother was a dead-end street for her. While the family needed the money, she could not work. Seldom could she get up off the couch where she laid most of the day. All that she could do was to watch TV."
I agreed; that was her pastime especially watching the Pittsburgh Pirates. I told the box that looking back upon her years of convalescence, I see it more clearly. Lying on the couch in the living room was about all that she could do. It was a sad time for her.
The box continued to reflect about the times that I was gone from home. "Your father faced his wife's situation, working far more than 40-hours a week, and dealing with the money problems. When your mother died finally, he had bypass surgery on his heart. He obviously put-off dealing with his health-related problems due to all the other problems that swirled around him. Gone from your parents were the warm summer days of joy and happiness like you painted on my top.
"Death, darkness, and dismal storms continued for those long years of their suffering. I saw that on a daily basis. However, I also watched your dad early in the morning while he got ready to go to work. He would look at me and pause. Sometimes, he would pick me up and just hold me."
I told the box that I did not know that since I was journeying down my yellow brick road of life during that time. Nonetheless, I did not know what it meant when he picked up my gift and looked at it.
"Your father saw in your gift a newer version of Pandora's Box. You know the ancient Greek story of Pandora's Box. Prometheus stole fire from heaven, which Zeus punished him for disobeying the gods. Therefore, he gave Pandora a box or actually a jar. Zeus told Pandora not to open the container. However, she did and out poured the winds of wrath, evils, death, and problems."
I responded that I did not see the parallel between the two boxes...Pandora's and mine.
The wooden box responded, "You know the story; you have written about Pandora's Box/Jar. She disobeyed and inherited the winds of many problems. However, when Pandora realized what she had done, she quickly replaced the lid." Then the box paused for a moment and finally asked, "What was it that still remained in the box?"
I smiled at the question since I know the answer. Nonetheless, I did not know where the wooden box was going with its question. Therefore, I merely replied to what I knew. She put the lid back on so as to protect hope from getting lost in the whirlwinds that she had already released.
Then the box paused again and waited. By this time, I knew that the box was giving me time to think about the implications to my personal life.
Since I did not respond quickly enough, the box continued, "Your father saw in your gift to him later in his life the same thing as what Pandora had seized upon. In spite of all the suffering that he was facing, he still had hope of a brighter day. Do you understand that he still possessed hope...hope for the future?
My retort was that I did not see much hope left in his life. My mother had died, and, over the next dozen years, he progressively got worse and died.
"Well, we will all die someday. Even wooden boxes like me die and as you, humans, say 'turn to dust'. Hope does not assure us immortality. Nonetheless, hope does provide something that keeps us going, as you say, down the yellow brick road of life. Additionally, we can have hope for the happiness of others in their lives. You have hope for your three children. You have hope for your granddaughter who is halfway through college.
"However, I know that you have hope for your youngest two grandsons. I see their pictures next to me every day and have seen them in your home. Your three children and granddaughter are adults, and they are fending well for themselves. However, Jack and Owen are taking their first few step on their journey. You hope that they will do well on their journey also. I have heard you tell them they are great kids. You have also told them about what Christopher Robin said to Winnie the Pooh, "Promise me you'll always remember that you're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." That provides them hope even when things in their world are not sailing smoothly as they might wish.
"When your dad looked and held me in those dark days, he hoped that you and your brothers would do well. I'm sure that he would be happy seeing you doing for Jack and Owen what he did for your bothers and you. We all need hope in life. We can pass that hope on to another generation even in dark and troubling times."
Visit the Connecting the Dots page to read more about this topic.
Visit the The Last Lecture page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Dancing with Death page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Talking with Objects page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Best and Worst of Times page to read more about this topic.