Preface: Sixteen years ago today in a small Kenyan court room, Nathan Lane Mogaka added Veatch to his already illustrious name. This year’s anniversary would have slipped by if not for a spontaneous moment of looking through his baby book just last night. And that spontaneous moment led to these thoughts.
In the 1998 movie Sliding Doors, a London woman’s love life and career both hinge, unknown to her, on whether she catches a train or doesn’t. The remainder of the movie allows the viewer to see the outcomes of both in parallel universes; Helen’s life based on making the train, Helen’s life if she did not. It is one of my favorite movies and one that I have been known to re-watch on many a rainy Saturday afternoon. Each of Helen’s choices resulted in far different realities and I sometimes wonder if that is how it really works? Can we truly miss life-changing situations by a missed train, a set of lost keys, an unplanned encounter? Is absolutely everything preordained (shout out to my Calvinist friends) or does life readjust as we make different choices?
This notion that a simple this-or-that can be anything but simple is a fascinating idea. Literature is filled with examples. I first read the allegory The Lady, or The Tiger?, written in 1884 by Frank R. Stockton, while sitting in 11th grade English. Even now, 39 years on, I can recall the angst caused by Mr. Stockton’s closing question:
And so I leave it with all of you: Which came out of the opened door – the lady, or the tiger?
Robert Frost examines the same “agony of choice” in his classic The Road not Taken:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler . . .
Frost gives the reader the benefit of knowing his choice in the poem’s last line, a line so oft quoted that it borders on cliché’:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
That line is made much of by risk-takers—go your own way, don’t follow the pack—and yet there also remains a question, a wondering, about the road Frost ignored. The fact that he chose to title the poem The Road Not Taken rather than The Road Less Traveled By leads me to consider that Frost, too, pondered his own choice over the years. What if he’d taken that road he did not? Which road? Which door? They are questions for the ages.
Last night at dinner we were discussing, again, the speed at which Nathan’s senior year seems to be passing. (Too quickly.) At some point during the meal I felt the need to retrieve Nathan’s baby book and take a walk down memory lane. As we sat at the table eating quiche and
laughing at the photos of baby Nathan, the scrap book fell open to a random page.
I’m not always good at writing down specific dates to remember and celebrate so when Nathan’s scrap book randomly fell to this specific page it gave us pause. September 22, 1999, the day Nathan Lane Mogaka became a “real” Veatch. He’d been the son of our hearts since we brought him home in 1997, but now the stroke of an elderly judge’s pen established his place in our family as legal and permanent. We all laughed at the timing, and then I, true-to-form, cried. Cried at the reminder of all we’d been given. Cried over how we found Nathan and he found us. What if we hadn’t visited New Life Home that day with our friend Linda? What if Nathan had not been sitting outside in that baby seat, allowing us to see him first and realize we had eyes for no other? What if 16 years ago today Mister Kenyan judge had said no? Perhaps Nathan, and two years later Jack, were two of our ‘roads less traveled’—two of our best decisions ever.
Which road? Which door? Neither?
There are times we wait. Regardless of which, decisions, both large and small, are made throughout life, and very recently our family has been forced to ask incredibly difficult questions. Those questions led to a decision that has confused and hurt one of our dearest, and he doesn’t fully understand our choices. These choices have affected, and will continue to affect, our entire family in deep ways, and they were not made lightly; they’ve been bathed in prayer, counsel, and thought. They came at great cost, both emotional and financial, and there have been nights of sleeplessness and wondering. But in the end we picked a door, we chose a path, not haphazardly but with thought and tears and shaky courage. We are at peace with the decision and look with anticipation at the outcome, praying that our choice was best for all concerned.
Which road? Which door? Wait? Over the course of life, we will all say yes, or no, to each and then live with the outcome of those decisions. At that point—at this point—I rest and I hope and I love. For me those are the wisest choices of all.