God Gave Me Today

I drove Kate to school today.  It was in the forties this morning but today it was sunny, so I opened the sun roof and let the sun warm my face as I drove home. Most Mondays I am full of a kind of joy that is hard to express in words…everything is beautiful — the rain, the sun, dead leaves swirling in the wind, the sound of the dryer, the finger prints on the windows…  

This morning didn’t feel like that, though.

I was a big fat meanie last night. It doesn’t really matter why. I was mean. I left. I drove around the neighborhood, up and down the streets, past warmly-lit houses. I drove to the plaza and sat in the parking lot at 8:30 watching people go in and out of the store. Watching their puffs of breath in the chilly air. Wondering what they were doing there…what they were buying…where they lived…what their life was like.  Watching a stray leaf fall here and there, making its slow spiral to the ground in the lamplight.  Wondering what just happened to me. Wondering what my family was doing. Wondering if my kids were worried about where I was. Remembering things that were said to me, and things that I said. 

I went home and Ella was already asleep. Her hair was still wet from the shower. She fell asleep with a pillow over her head because Kate was vacuuming at bedtime and it was too loud. I took the pillow off, and straightened her hair out with my fingers. She always looks so little when she sleeps…she and jellycat in a tangled knot of crimson tresses and nubby fur, fleece polka dots and freckles and loved-off whiskers. She brings me to my knees, the way her face is softly illuminated by the light of the stairway every night. I sat by her for a minute, just breathing.

I am lucky. 

God gave me another day. 

God gave me today.

God Gave Me Today

The Ending of Summer

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
–Henry James

Oh Henry, you slay me.  I do love summer, and we have but a month of it left.  I’m not quite sure where the time all went…but my heart is a bit heavy over the fact that summer’s end is near.

Kate will be in high school this fall.  Maybe that’s part of the sorrow in it, I don’t know. On the surface, the whole high school thing doesn’t bother me.  But just below the surface, where the beating of my heart is hidden from view but clearly palpable, I guess I know that my time with her here is fading.  I have four short years left, and one day soon I will turn around and realize it is all over.  All those little things about her will be gone — confined to her bedroom or taken away with her completely; I will look around and there will be nothing but her photographs to remind me.

No more bottles of nail polish scattered around.  No more dirty old bag full of horse hair and muddy riding boots in the kitchen.  No more viola in the hallway…and no music behind her bedroom door.  No more love notes, or doodles or sketches to surprise me. I won’t be able to hear her laugh or watch her silly new dance moves or see her smile.  I won’t be able to look over at her and see her sitting there, long legs unfolded gracefully before her as she reads. And we won’t talk at bedtime anymore, the way we do now.

Most nights, I imagine, I will go to sleep wondering if her day was a good one, or if some creep has broken her precious heart. I will wonder if she’s eating healthy and if she got her juice in the morning (and I will worry for her roommate if not…). And I will wonder if she is tucked in each night…is she safe and is she happy and is she really doing alright? I will just have to trust that she is, and that if not, she will tell me.

I’m not sure how to do that. I’m not sure how a mother trusts and lets her child go…

I do think this is where the sorrow comes from. The ending of another summer is really just an inching closer to the day my heart breaks a little…the day it goes walking off on its own.

Kate 14 NST

The Ending of Summer

Time Does Go By

The other night I sat in our room upstairs folding laundry.  Ella was in bed, tucked snugly under her fluffy white comforter and humming along to the sound of Henry’s recorder.  He played all sorts of tunes, and she hummed along.  They often sit together while he plays.  He does quite a good job with that recorder, though he could not sing a tune on key if his life depended on it.

I could hear the water running downstairs — David was cleaning the dinner dishes, William was reading, and Kate was on the computer doing some type of homework.  And I sat folding another load of laundry.  I can remember back to when everything I folded had tiny little snaps and zippers and never folded up very well into a nice little rectangle the way I like.  And now I fold compression shorts, and football pants and slippery basketball jerseys, cheer uniforms, plus a LOT of socks.  None of those things fold very neatly either, actually.  I fold and I sigh a little…time does go by.

There is a large picture window in our room which overlooks the front yard.  We used to be able to look out the window and see clear down to the end of the street.  Now, in just ten little years, the maple tree is so large I cannot see past it.  It’s green leaves ruffled in the breeze that night, making the setting sun’s light flicker through the shutters.  What I see the most when I look at that tree is it’s shade.  I can remember sitting with Coco in the tiny patch of shade it provided ten years ago…we had to keep moving to stay in that shade patch because the tree was so small.  That was back when he was sick, but before I knew he was sick.  He would just sit there with me.  I thought he had finally, at eight years old, mellowed out.  It turns out that he was dying.  It still to this day breaks my heart that I didn’t even know.

But life goes on…time marches on even when your world feels like it has been jarred mercilessly into stillness.  You look around at all the people, and they don’t notice…they don’t realize that your world has stopped because their world has not…

The day after Coco died, we spent a few hours at the pool.  I don’t think I moved from my chair much.  His death exhausted me, it consumed me — the memory of it, the pain of it.  But when we came home and walked through the door, I expected him to be there.  I forgot.  I forgot he was gone.  Sorrow has a funny way of torturing a person like that for a long, long while, smothering them at first like a heavy, wet shroud, and then slowly unraveling until finally all you feel are the shreds of grief now and then.

It will be nine years without that big, old labrador next week.  And now I sit here, with another dog — a beagle — on my lap. Poppy.

She is a good dog.  She is seventeen pounds to his 75.  She is a lot like him, to be honest.  Having her doesn’t stop the missing him, though.  I guess that’s the sorrow…still touching me even nine years later.

Miss you old buddy.

Time Does Go By

Crazy old dog.

This morning  I thought about the walks we’ve been taking this summer, how we go to the creek and the kids find large empty snail shells, and we pick brown eyed susans and queen anne’s lace and any other little wild thing that looks pretty.  It has been so hot lately that we have to go early.  It is beautiful then, and quiet.  The goldfinches, with their swooping pattern of flight, streak across the path in front of us.  Rabbits are everywhere, and Charlie is so busy sniffing the ground for rabbit tracks that he doesn’t even see the rabbits when they are right in front of his face.  I have loved the walks this summer. 

This morning I thought about the wildflowers, and remembered that the mason jar we use to put them in was empty, so I  decided that when I walked Charlie this evening I would pick some new little flowers to put in it.  Only Charlie isn’t here anymore.  It actually took me a few seconds to remember that. 

It’s funny how sorrow hits you in the simplest, prettiest moment, when you least expect it.  It kindof knocks the breath out of you, the way your heart falls.

I try to think about how we gave Charlie a wonderful home for two months.  How we helped him to trust again, even if just a little.  I try to convince myself that we did a good thing.  But I don’t really believe any of it.  I honestly find it hard to even catch my breath, I feel so remorseful. 

I never even ordered him a tag for his collar.  I wish I had done at least that one little thing for Charlie.  I just kept forgetting…

All of his things are packed up, now.  His hairy little blankie still needs washing, though.  There is something about putting everything away that makes it seem like he was never here.  Even Mr. Loofah up there is gone.  (And don’t let the cheesy smile fool you.  Mr. Loofah is totally sad.)  I think I’m going to leave that blankie out for a while, just to remind me of him, that he was here, that he was ours. 

What all this sadness makes me realize is that in just 8 little weeks I loved that dog.  I never would have thought such a neurotic creature could do that to me.  But he did.  Good old crazy Charlie.  (Maybe I am crazy, too).

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

–Kahlil Gibran

Yes, Mr. Gibran, you are right.  He was totally my delight. 

Crazy old dog.