One of the bridges that connect our two communities was deemed unsafe. I have traveled that bridge for over 30 years, crossing from our side of town to the bigger city section for real shopping, dining, employment and most importantly, usually to collect my Plum. Our side holds the university and ethnic dining, a true bedroom community, relying on the larger city for most of our needs. Of course the university is one of the major employers in the area so just as many on the other side travel the bridges to come this way. Three bridges unite us, hold us without complaint, as we travel back and forth carrying groceries, families, pets to the vet. Until one was no longer safe.
Our state department of transportation took over the task of fixing this bridge. We learned it had already been fixed before but was sinking into the river, the supports weren’t holding. The bridge was closed, work began. Watching this effort from afar, the slow progress fascinating if not a bit unnerving. I remember stories of bridges that have collapsed, terrible events where lives were lost just in the traveling of a road always trusted. I had always counted on this bridge, the one they were dismantling. The one now left with pieces of concrete, no barriers. Without thought I drove those I love most daily onto this span, trusting we would never fall, believing that someone who knows more than me would surely keep us safe. I am guessing the good people in Minneapolis believed the same until that horrible day in 2007 when 13 were killed, another 145 injured when their trust collapsed. Work began, our bridge was taken apart, piece by piece. Finally there was little left to do but explode what was left, completely destroy any remnants. We saw footage of this history-making event, I was sickened by the loss even as I knew it was necessary. Clouds of dust filled the air, particles of our past. Clearing out the old was complete, the true rebuilding could begin.
For months traffic has been a nightmare, groaning and anger fill conversations and letters to the editor. Appointments are missed, being late is almost expected. I wonder once the bridge is reopened, how long before it is taken for granted again. How short will our memories of this season of suffering, of inconvenience be? Have we stopped to pray for the men and women creating our new roadway, our new path? Our impatience to get where we want clouds our memories of all who have helped pave our way.
The thing about not using this bridge though is that I have discovered some new routes. I drive alternate roads, trickier less direct streets only to find areas of town I had forgotten existed or never seen. Beautiful neighborhoods, a donut shop, street art. I am seeing the other side of town, forced into a new perspective. Shaken out of my routine, exploring my city with fresh, attentive eyes.
We have had some bridges explode in our life these last couple of years. Bridges that we kept patching and adding supports but really were deemed unsafe. We cannot continue to travel over the same roads, ignoring the realities of addiction, of emotional abuse, of the conflict between faith and work. We have grown weary with the blasting of our bridges. Even though we knew the dangers, these were our bridges, we kept taking the risks. Explode they have, though, dust clouds of our lives covering us, choking us, until it settles at our feet. Some days we sit in the ashes like Job, as Pastor Chris reminded us, other days I get out the hose and wash it all away. I am most impatient often for the rebuilding, I seek out alternative routes that lead me not to my expected destination but somewhere new. During our rebuilding we are blessed to be discovering some new routes, new communities of friends who are supporting us as surely as the trusses going up across the river. The phone calls, emails, texts build us up each day as we construct our new lives. We stop often and pray for those who are building these bridges for us, bridges that may lead us to different places, with new perspectives. Once a new donut shop is discovered, it really cannot be dismissed just because a faster route is completed, our deepened faith cannot be shrugged off once all the pieces are realigned. We are changed, we understand the risks, the dangers of relying on just one path. We recognize it is foolish to forget the bridge isn’t really what holds us up, ever.
One incredible blessing when we received our great shock two weeks ago (has it been three now?) has been the texts and phone calls from our son. This young man, filled with anger and alcohol, who left our home to establish his own, setting fire to all behind him. The thing about love between mothers and sons is, at least my Arrow and I, when life hits us hard, we come back together. He was horrified at the news, his indignation at the unjustness once again joined with ours rather than against us. Over these weeks he has reached out, shown concern, offered assistance. I volunteered his totes full of household goods, he accepted. We are constructing our bridge, maybe a suspension one, but we are both willing to cross it with hearts ready for gentle steps toward a new relationship. It will never be the old one, that is good. It wasn’t safe for any of us to travel.
I keep waiting for the same reaching out from my daughter, the silence all the more painful in this time of family crisis. I have extended every invitation I know to make that connection again, I can’t find a way to her. My impatience to reach her must sound to the heavens like all the commuters groans during rush hour, for all these months of reconstruction. I have been groaning for too long now. God is in charge of this bridge, like all of them. I am not meant to cross just yet, it is still unsafe. I imagine He thinks much work remains on my side, even after the explosion. Surely the work on her side is great as well. In the meantime, I mourn the loss of that easy route but celebrate our discoveries. We are blessed, we found a new donut shop, we have friends to help us cross the waters. We will travel safely, slowly, securely again one day. Today we have some rebuilding to do.