A Parenthetical Life

What exists between brackets is an odd collection of addenda and afterthoughts, of accidentals and coincidentals. Bookended by parentheses, em-dashes, and pages of drama and comedy in the history of the universe as it plays out are tiny dust-motes and cobwebs, and hidden in these, all of the second fiddles, bit players, and walk-ons who create the background of the scene almost without being noticed.

It’s that almost, though, through which we ‘members of the company’ enter into the action. We may sneak, erupt, or even fall backwards through the portals, but without us, the action can grind to a halt and intermission become interminable. If a night janitor doesn’t unlock the executive washroom when the evening’s repairs on it are finished, the dyspeptic CEO might be late to that morning meeting wherein he was supposed to sign papers finalizing the corporation’s lucrative sale. If the pest inspector doesn’t notice that one little corner of the house’s foundation has a few carpenter ants surveying it hungrily, in a short while the home will be in ruins. If the air traffic controller, invisible in her tower, delays the landing of a medivac helicopter for a moment too long, the patient waiting for his heart transplant dies. So much potential lies in the smallest acts or failures-to-act.

A tombstone or obituary won’t determine my worth. Headlines and spotlights won’t, either. Most of us crave a sense of being valued and wanted, even if we don’t desire fame—but many will never know what genuine impact they’ve had on others, or others on them, being unsung and unannounced. I am at peace with that. I firmly believe that if we are to be judged, it won’t fall to the people immediately around, to a popular vote, or to any authority present on the planet to determine our impact, or more specifically, our value.

I, for one, will keep lurking and living in the interstices between the stars, content in doing and being my generally invisible best, modest as that might be. When I’m gone, others will fill in the gaps. And probably do so with better style and grace, having learned from my traipsing across the stage, lines or no lines. That’s my role, to set the stage for the starring actors and support their grander parts in history.

(Yes, even if my character remains forever nameless on the marquee.)

Photo: Plumbing the Depths

Not needing to blow my own horn doesn’t mean I’m not a necessary part of the show.

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