In the moment


Annie’s 14-year-old brother isn’t accompanying us on the trip to get Annie’s 12-year-old booster shot, so she’ll earn the front passenger’s seat automatically, without claiming it by saying, “Shotgun.”

Our 2003 Odyssey’s bumper is attached with cable ties and flex tape. Jane says the minivan went from being ironic to an eye sore during COVID.

In the driver’s seat, I think about starting the engine. And then, I notice it happening, as though by magic—for I have no idea, really, how I orchestrate my muscles to do so. I just think it, and my right hand twists the key about 40 degrees clockwise.

I hear Annie say, “Da-Da.”

Her eyes are pooled with tears. Again.

My hand finishes its twisting as I turn to see her.

“I don’t want to get a shot,” she moans/cries, sings/says. She repeats the tone and rhythm. It becomes a prayer of comfort and a petition for grace.

“I’m sorry, honey,” I say. “Really, really, really sorry.”

I dislike feeling helpless.

Ten minutes later, we are coming off NE 33rd going down to the ramp to the 84 West. Towards downtown.

“Can I ask you something?” I ask Annie.

I always want to answer such rhetorical questions—like the one I just asked Anne—with something preposterous.

“Rabbi, Guess what?”

“I dunno… Bananas don’t have nearly as much potassium as previously touted?”

Annie, staring out her side window, answers “what?” with as little enthusiasm as the question deserves.

“Where is the needle? Like, the shot, the needle? Where is it right this moment?”

Shifting her gaze to the front window, she gestures ahead, towards Kaiser Interstate.

I wait before saying, “And where is your pain and anxiety?”

She doesn’t say anything.

I don’t know if she gets what I’m getting at.

Much of what upsets me is close to me only in that it is in my head.


The above story of trying to be present in the moment reminds me of another that happened in the very same medical facility. But seven years earlier. At a well-check for Annie.

In this story, four-year-old Annie sits on my lap.

And, I, forty-four years old, sit on the paper over the brightly-lit, vinyl examination table.

We finish playing a cotton-ball game of “which hand is it in?”

We await the doctor.

Annie squirms and giggles as I tease, “Hey, what are you giggling for? I’ve not even tickled you yet.”

I move my hands closer, but still not touching her.

I wiggle my fingers maniacally, and she laughs more.

“Don’t tickle me,” she laughs.

Over the top, innocently, I proclaim in sing-song, “I’m not touching you. But I’m going to get you.”

She laughs.
And then I feel it. Her warm urine being absorbed by my jeans.

I’m getting wet and frustrated thinking about how uncomfortable I will be on the walk back to the not-yet-ironic minivan.

And, then, it dawns on me.

Actually, at this moment, the warmth is cozy.

It’s actually pleasant.

Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer resides in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder and head of Religion-Outside-The-Box, an internet-based, global group of 3.3K+ digital-age seekers. ROTB produces excellent spiritual content.

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