"You know what I'm excited for? I'm excited for the boys to get older, for the day when they will start asking to hear the story of all that happened. I'm excited for the day when we can tell them how proud we all were of their mom."
~ my forever friend
"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."
It is good to look up when I run. There's more to life than the sidewalk.
I'm following a training program, Couch to 5K. As I run, I listen to my playlist of choice (which varies schizophrenically from loud, angry music to transporting, worshipful praise songs - and sometimes a blend of both), and a voice tells me when to change my pace for the training of the day.
"Begin warm up."
"One minute left."
"Begin Cool Down."
It's pretty encouraging to have this voice telling me what's coming next, where I am on the journey, and where to focus my energies.
I woke up not remembering. I didn't remember until I traced the lethargy.
Why do I feel so horrible today? Why do I want to skip the next 24 hours? What is happening today that I'm dreading, dreading, dreading?
The same thing happened to me on my brother's wedding anniversary, the first year after his divorce was final. When a date is etched into my mind, my subconscious will always be aware when the date arrives yet again. It will whisper to me in dry, gray tones until I finally read the memo.
I went to sleep on Friday night with the full knowledge that the following morning was Robb's birthday. But when I woke up, I didn't remember. It wasn't until I could barely move, when I was buried underneath an invisible reminder.
And then it hit me with gale forces, nearly sending me straight back to bed. Except that I had two little boys to whom I had promised donuts for breakfast. I doled out that promise when my heart was lighter with the promise of traditions.
I followed through with the donuts. And that was the end of celebrating on Saturday.
I could not celebrate, would not celebrate. I resisted every 'should' that came to my mind. And I will resist yours too if you tell me right now how I could have honored my husband better this past Saturday, as he turned 36. Or would have turned 36.
I remembered him all day.
I remembered the six years in a row that I ruined his birthday cake. Six years in a row. (Birthday cakes are just not really my gig, although I aspire to dreams of Cupcake Wars and Food Network Challenge. It's all a big farse.)
I remembered breakfasts in bed and run-away-days and surprising him with donuts at the office and teaching little boys to celebrate and struggling to find the perfect gift for the man who really wanted nothing at all.
I remembered his birthday last year, when we planned an impromptu out-of-town excursion for the four of us, complete with a hotel pool, late night movies, jumping on the bed, and bbq pulled pork, although not all of those together in the same scene.
I rememberd him all day. And I have done so for 8 months and 5 days.
And in honor of his birthday, I took the day off. I told myself yes all day.
Extra donuts? Yes.
Starbucks three times? Yes.
Five hours at the pool? Yes.
No celebrating? Yes.
It is insanely impossible to celebrate the birthday of someone who has been recently stolen from me. It's like buying baby clothes after the miscarriage has been confirmed: it cannot be done without a high degree of lying to oneself.
I remember him always. I celebrate him everyday.
And on his birthday, a day that I have forever cherished, I let it pass me by, one hour at a time.
This was perhaps the hardest milestone yet.
But don't you worry: there's another one right around the corner. There is an unbelievable amount of holidays in a year.
I've never been so eager to watch the calendar pages fly, and never have I been so desperate to simultaneously make them all stop their blessed turning.
Happy Birthday to you, Robb. August 27 will never, ever - never, ever in my life - be the same.
Tyler found a roly-poly. One of those little black bugs that curls up into a ball.
He found it as we were walking up the sidewalk to deposit Tucker in the line of kindergarten students. Incidentally, it wasn't a nature walk. And yet there we were, caught up in investigation. Some of us are better at stopping to smell the roses and hold the bugs. One of us has to watch the clock.
He let it crawl all over his hands as he tinkered along the sidewalk.
"Can I keep it?"
"No, buddy, you need to let it go before we get in the car."
"Because he lives in the grass. You can't take him from his home."
"Well, I did that once. When I was four years old, I caught a caterpillar. A thick, black fuzzy one. I put him in a bowl with a couple of leaves and some grass, and I watched him all the time. He crawled all around, until he didn't anymore. He curled up at the bottom of the bowl, and he wouldn't try anymore. Poppa told me the caterpillar had seen all he could see in the bowl, and he had learned everything he could learn. I kept him until he was sad to be mine, and then I needed to let him go. He belonged some place bigger."
"But I want to see a black, fuzzy caterpillar."
"Sorry, kiddo. They don't live where we are. They're back east with the lightning bugs."
"Do you think your children are becoming closer because of this?"
"I absolutely do."
"In a sad way?"
"No, in a great way."
They are learning to complement each others' strengths and weaknesses. Tucker leans on Tyler's verbal skills, and Tyler leans on Tucker's physical strength. They take care of each other, watch out for one another, speak for one another, and live in each others' world.
Just yesterday, when they woke up, Tyler's first words were, "Hey, Tuck, remember that dream we just had?" And they launched into a dialogue of all that had happened while they were sleeping.
It's almost like a twin relationship. They were not born together, but they are being rebirthed together into what is new for all of us.
Originally, I believed the acceptance of a loving God involved a sufficient but relative minor shift of attitude. After all, it was on so many people's lips.
The more I worked with it, the more I realize that the acceptance in faith of God's unconditional love was not only hugely significant, it required a major change of attitude . . . the major shift may be the images we have of God and ourselves.
How radically is our image of God reshaped if we take seriously the belief in God as deeply, passionately, and unconditionally loving us?
How radically must we rework our own self image if we accept ourselves as lovable - as deeply, passionately, and unconditionally loved by God?
~ God First Loved Us,
Quia amasti me, fecisti me amabilem. (In loving me, you made me lovable.)
We were in the car together for a really long time. Snuggled up in the backseat, me in between their two carseats as I balanced the DVD player on my knees.
(But I certainly didn't give it enough space to push my book out of the way.)
Their hands clamored on me.
That's nice for a while. The interlocked fingers, their counting my freckles and veins, tracing my fingernails as they've done since they were infants. I study them when they sleep; they study me when I sit still beside them. We know each others' details.
But then there's also the pushing and shoving and spacelessness that comes with sitting in between two little boys for hours on end.
I finally and suddenly reached my limit, wanting to spread out in a space all my own.
I muttered to myself, "Oh, my word. Someone has been touching me all day long today."
Tyler gasped. "Oh my goodness, Mommy! Who on earth has been touching you so much?"
Well, sweet boy, for starters: you.
He realized neither that it was him nor that I could perhaps reach my capacity.
It was obvious their life has enlarged
as much as reduced.
It has a simple beauty and clarity about it.
There is not one ounce of striving here.
There is no pretension.
There is no idle chatter.
There is no gossip,
or foolish speculation.
There is just hope,
and an enviable ability
to cherish and inhabit this moment.
This has pared their existence down to a fierce simplicity.
I am like a child who has been forbidden candy all her life, and suddenly she's at a candy store potluck. She can have as much as she wants, and nobody would really blame her.
And she would feel miserable and sick afterward.
"I don't want to color inside the lines anymore."
"Okay. So, don't. Color outside the lines, Tricia. Go all over the page. But don't fall off the page."
"Sure. We'll take you out. We'll keep you safe. You do whatever you want. We'll bring you home. There will be consequences and headaches you'll probably have to deal with, but if this is the therapy you need, we'll help you get there."
"I'm concerned that the decisions you make could haunt you more than the anger you feel. Let's keep your children in mind, Tricia. You've laid a good foundation. Please don't abandon that. They'll be angry someday too. Don't model the free fall off the deep end."
"Anger like this is common. You're right on track. In fact, it took you a little longer than I expected."
"What kind of woman are you? A real one."
"Put yourself in situations with boundaries. Dance. Go dance. Punch something. Paint."
"If I paint, it will be all black. An all black painting."
"Great. Make a black painting. And hang it in your home."
"You could. There are plenty out there who would take you up on the offer. Just not yet, okay? Just not today. Just don't decide this today."
"Anger has popped the lid off your conscience. It's not gone forever, and we'll still find it. It's just floating around instead of securely attached. And that's healthy and okay."
"Perhaps you should run. Run mad."
"I'll train for a 5K with you. Want to?"
"Yes, I think I want to."
Tricia, be honest, angry, frustrated, tired - be all these things; but please do not "free fall."
Cling to everything and everyone you must;
do not stop loving.
There is no rest in it.
"Therefore I urge you brothers,
in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,
holy and pleasing to God -
this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -
his good, pleasing, and perfect will."
Show me. Remind me. Let me offer my body as a living sacrifice. Holy and pleasing to you. This is my spiritual act of worship. This is why I hold on, stay the course. If only just for today. Transform me. Renew my mind. If only just for today.
Because I'm angry enough for today and tomorrow. And probably the next day.
"Mommy, for my birthday, I want a baseball, and a bat, and a mitt."
My eyes sting. What is he going to do a with a baseball? He doesn't have a partner to play with.
A boy learns to play with the constant banter of throw and catch in the backyard. His dad teaches him to swing. His dad teaches him how to wear the mitt on one hand and secure the ball with the other.
His dad teaches him.
This little boy wants to play. And it's not that I don't want to be the one to teach him. It's that I can't. These jacked-up eyes do not assist in catching a ball, hitting with a bat, lighting a candle, cutting a string, or painting my toenails. Any of the above can happen by accident, but not usually without incident.
But my son wants to play ball. Baseball, please.
A fellow parent solved this one for me. "Oh, this is an easy one. Get him a T-ball with a string, so he can hit the ball as hard as he wants and it will always come back. As for catching and throwing, get him a pitching net. He can throw and catch for hours, all on his own."
And so I will. Because I am up for an easy fix for any one of these sneak attacks.
"Well," his eyes wander in picturing her. "She has hair like a girl, and she has two eyes right here."
That's good to know. You've now described every girl in your class.
There is a certain wordlessness that falls over him when I mention Ella. A dreamy wordlessness.
And apparently it goes both ways. These two have paired off. They cry when they cannot walk beside each other and hold hands; they hug all throughout the live long day; they sign "I love you" to one another across the PreK classroom. Hugs, kisses, the works.
He loves Ella. She loves him. His mom and I are getting to know one another. It seems wise to begin a friendship of our own, given the plans our children have made.
Tyler came home and said, "Ella was running so fast today, and I couldn't even catch her."
"And so what did you do?"
He looked at me, dumbfounded with the obvious answer. "Mommy, I kept running after her."
An excellent approach, kiddo. Just keep chasing after the girl who has your eye. She's bound to glance your way.
Or in Ella's case, she'll stop running and hug you for joining the chase.
The plant is as old as he is, and we're talking near his conception. His mom received it as a gift when she was pregnant with Robb; when Tucker was born, she gave us a new philodendron, rooted and planted from the leaves of the mother vine that was more than three decades old.
That's a really profound gift, life giving in a beautiful way. I don't have a green thumb, by any means, and I was somewhat intimidated by a gift with such longevity. I aimed to do my best. She promised it required little. Just some water and pruning now and then.
Robb and I argued a lot about the philodendron.
He liked for it to be long and flowing, with tendrils that reached off the counter and down to the floor.
I did too - I mean, that's great. But I argued that the plant should be fuller near the soil and then grow in length. But any time I pruned it, Robb worried, tossing out accusations that I was trying to kill his mom's plant.
I wasn't. But she even confirmed that it could benefit from some cutting back, so it might grow in fullness. Perhaps less stringy.
Any time I cut it back, he was sure I had killed it. Killed it. Maimed. Done for. Tricia hates plants. She wants to kill anything that represents life and conception.
Such were the assumptions.
I was really sure I was right. He was sure that my right-fighting would lead to the plant's demise.
So you know what I did? I rooted my own. Here. You have yours, I'll have mine, and they are both born from the same mother vine. You care for yours any way you choose, and I'll care for mine in the way I deem best. If either of us is wrong, we'll still have another strong, healthy plant.
A souvenir of who was right all along.
We watched each other's plants. It became a race to the finish, an object of serious competition. Mine sat in a glass of water next to his potted version. As soon as my darling plant had strong enough roots to dig into soil, I would equip her with her very own home. In a lovely yellow pot.
We watched. We trash talked. His grew longer, mine grew deeper, and we stood firm in our convictions.
And then, there was that one day.
I walked in the door from a morning of teaching, and I poured myself a tall glass of water.
And that's when I saw it. The glass that had held the shapely, baby roots was gone. In its place sat a colorful pot, with a small, freshly potted, plant.
"What?! What... is... this??"
I demanded, completely aghast with my hands splayed across the kitchen counter, as if I had seen a dead rodent next to the toaster.
"I planted it for you."
"Why on earth would you do that??"
"I was helping you. I thought I was doing something nice."
I blew a gasket. I was furious. "Do something nice for your plant, not mine! That is mine - my plant. Mine. Mine!"
Firstborn children like to be in charge. Each of us firstborn in every way, Robb and I often vied for domains of control in our home. We often said to each other, "Hey. This is mine. You find something else to be in charge of."
He potted my plant. All under the guise of doing something nice for his wife. Ha. I sniffed that one out. I was sure he was trying to sabotage my efforts, sticking this poor, dear plant in thick soil before she had the hearty strength to stand on her own.
I threw a fit. I really did. It wasn't pretty. He stood by his intentions: to be kind. I stood by my contention: that plant was mine to be kind to.
He found the end of his tolerance for my juvenile tantrum. "Fine. Fine. Fine! Tricia. Fine. Here you go."
And he plucked the plant, roots and all, from its freshly packed soil.
And he dropped the whole thing in my fresh glass of water.
I gasped and shrieked.
"There. Happy? I was just trying to do something nice for you."
We watched with silent, gritted teeth as the water turned brown and bits of soil floated to the bottom of the glass.
"Yes. Thank you. I'll take care of my own plant. Keep your hands to yourself and your own plants, thank you very much."
We spent a hearty day-and-a-half in our separate corners of the house, fuming at each other and avoiding contact of any kind. That's what marriages are made of, really: silly fights over cookie crumbs and bathroom towels and expired salad dressing. Those are the little ditties that forever give you something new to talk about, when you think you've learned each other inside and out.
The plant has now lived longer than he did. Born before he was, it still thrives on our kitchen counter.
Eventually, I married the two plants; I have repotted my (healthy and thriving) plant into a larger pot with his (which is now doing well since I have trimmed it back, as it naturally should be). What we once intended to be the potted product of right and wrong has now become the a variegated reminder of a silly argument.
But perhaps it's a picture of much more. I am enduring my heart's very own season of pruning, like it or not.
Pruning initially makes the tree . . . more unsightly. It makes a dead thing look deader, if that's possible. When I do a heavy pruning on my trees, usually in January or February, my children accuse me of ecological barbarity.
"Why did you destroy the tree?" my daughter asks. "Just watch," I say. "For how long?" she asks. "You'll have to come back later. This will take a while."
Pruning is winter work. A tree's dormancy strips the thing to bony nakedness, fruitless, leafless, ugly. A tree in winter is useless and unsightly. But it has this one advantage: you can cut the wood deep, right back to the trunk if you must, and the tree will survive.
If it's done right, the tree will be better for it come springtime: stronger, shapelier, more vigorous.
It's sobering to love so much. Sometimes it's suffocating.
After baths and stories, jammies and lullabies, I visit my children after they have fallen asleep - their most angelic hour.
And sometimes I literally feel an ache of loving so much. When the details of the day are complete, when the spinning slows and the resting begins, sometimes that's the feeling that comes in its place. An ache of love.
I reach out so carefully, gently touch his hair or stroke his cheek, my touch as soft as a whisper.
And it suddenly occurs to me.
Robb doesn't get to touch them.
And as much as I rejoice for him, with varying degrees of envy (depending on the honesty of the day), that truth makes me feel sad for him.
I just have a hard time thinking he wouldn't miss that, even if everything else is perfect and whole and his.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.
So much of me is so tired, so fed up.
I have done the right things,
followed the rules,
stayed inside the lines,
pursued purity and upright standing,
And what has this given to me?
No one is immune to heartache, loss, death.
I am in the deepest valley of my life,
so prone to wander,
so ready to run away.
If I hold onto my faith,
if I believe You are who You are,
if I claim the sovereign gift of grace,
then why shouldn't I do whatever I want?
There seems little comfort in the way I have lived.
Why on earth shouldn't I seek comfort in anything else around me?
Shallow, fleeting, I don't even care.
I could easily follow anything.
And I don't even want anyone to stop me.
I'm feeling like I must be still,
or I will fall.
Hard and fast.
And I don't even care.
It would be great to know what the free fall feels like.
Screw it. All of it.
My heart feels hard and heavy.
It is too much to carry, for the rest of my days.
My pulse races, my blood boils.
Part of me says,
Don't give these questions to the world.
Honor God with what you write.
Keep the gray quiet, hidden safely away.
But part of me says,
I'm sure I'm not the only one,
asking, wondering, ready to flip and run.
Part of me says,
don't write it until you have it figured out.
Another part of me says,
I'll never have it figured out.
Part of me says,
Don't question God in public, don't make him look bad.
And part of me says,
Why not? David did.
And he was a man after God's own heart.
If God is, then he is bigger than me.
If he is bigger than me, then my questions and wanderings neither weaken nor surprise him.
Part of me says,
Trust in the sovereignty of God.
Promise everyone it will be okay, you will be okay.
But I'm not sure it will, I will, this will.
All of me says, if I'm going to tell this story,
I need to tell the truth.
Sovereignty doesn't mean happy ending.
Not on this side.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it, Seal it with Thy perfect love.
There is a true and honest honeymoon that comes with the start of a new school year. I know it well; we are long time acquaintances.
Tucker is hooked on all things kindergarten. I put a happy little note in his lunchbox:
I love you, Tucker. XOXO.
When he brought his lunchbox home, he showed me the note he thought his teacher put in there for him. "Look, Mommy, she loves me."
She does, buddy. And so do I. And to be clear, that's my handwriting. There are some things I'm willing to share the credit for, but it turns out I hold the current status for putting a love note in his lunchbox. ;)
Tucker comes home talking a mile-a-minute. He tells me about his friends, about recess(es), about the numbers he wrote, about who had a good day or a whiny day, and all about what he ate first, second, and last at lunchtime.
At the end of his second day, he said, "I do really like kindergarten. But I'm a little worried about second grade."
"I don't think I'll be able to read those signs they have in second grade."
"Well, we don't have to think about that yet. You can settle into kindergarten and do your best, and by the time you're in second grade, I know you'll be ready. But we don't have to worry about it yet."
"But why shouldn't I worry about it? I want to talk about it."
That's so, so, so his daddy. That is quintessential Robb, the attitude that says, "I feel like I have a pretty good handle on where I am right now, but I see something looming ahead that might be a bit of a curve ball. I'd like to know what I can do today to be ready for that milestone."
That's the heart of the man who installed the infant carseat when I was still in my second trimester. Preparation today makes for success tomorrow.
I am raising his son. Well on his way to list making, preparedness, and thorough thinking.
So, we talked about it. Because I loved his dad well, and I learned that sometimes it's just good to talk about things that still might be a few years away.
Come to me,
all you are who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart
and you will find rest for your soul.
That night, Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
When the man saw that he could not overpower him,
he touched the socket of Jacob's hip
so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
'It is because I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared."
Elizabeth pointed this out to me: the gift inside the word. We agreed we know neither what it means nor what to do with it.
But there's no denying that it is there: the rest in the wrestling.
Perhaps one evokes the other. Perhaps they are mutually inclusive.
Perhaps the rest is within the journey, rather than the result at the end.
I don't know. I really don't know.
But one must be part of the other. It's there, in black and white.
Kindergarten parents are a community of their own. And I belong among them.
We have lots of questions. Concerns. We need reassuring, to varying degrees.
When I taught kindergarten, I often said that teaching this particular grade level was 50% teaching the children and 50% building relationships with the parents - with some give and take on either side of those percentages, depending on the day.
It's their child's first exposure to school. It has to begin well. It just has to. If it doesn't, it's really hard to make up for lost time.
This week, I sat among the other parents in Tucker's class. I sat low on one of those teeny tiny chairs - I'd forgotten how small they really are.
I listened to the other parents voice their concerns and questions.
"I know you don't want toys at school, but could she bring her stuffed turtle? She really loves it. It makes her feel safe."
"Can I send trail mix for him to munch on? It's been his best snack since he was little."
"He still naps in the afternoon. Will that be a problem in a full day classroom?"
"Will you be able to put sunscreen on her before their recess?"
These are legitimate questions. And basic conflict management teaches you that any emerging concern is valid.
But as I listened, I couldn't help but notice how different my life is. My worries are different.
"Hi, my name is Tricia. My son Tucker will be in your class. I need to tell you, my husband died very suddenly seven months ago. We're still finding our balance. Tucker does well most of the time, but I wanted to alert you as you begin any learning units on Family. Ours is different... very recently different."
We pray to the God who heals all our diseases, the One who promises to work things together for our good.
I'm beginning to think differently about this. There's a paradigm shift happening in my mind.
He can say yes. He can heal. But any healing we find here is really only temporary anyway. We're all going to die. Nobody gets out of here alive.
Sorry. That was morbid. But it's true.
God didn't say yes to me. He heard the screams from my bedroom, but he didn't answer as I begged him to.
He didn't say yes to my dear friends who said goodbye to their little girl last night. We learned last fall that Lily was on the way, and Robb was one of the most delighted in our circle of joy. But Lily was born with a broken brain, and she only visited us for 54 days. A little messenger, she was. In heaven now, with Jesus, with Robb, full and whole. Every ounce of her.
God didn't say yes the way we asked him to. He is showing up differently.
He promises new life; we think it will happen here.
He promises healing; we think it will happen here.
He promises everything will work together for our good; we think it will happen here.
Maybe it will. Sometimes it does.
Sometimes it doesn't.
Robb has new life, he is delivered from every illness (and insecurity and wish), and all things have indeed worked together for his good.
We ask God to do something big. But the truth is, he already has.
And is there greater glory in our pain free life, or in his people knowing and trusting him in the shadowed valley?
We pray for healing, but I wonder if we really know what we're asking for.
Perhaps we should pray for the courage and strength of those of us who remain,
Five years ago on this day, I miscarried our third child. This day was once an anniversary for heartache, a day for remembering. Now, this day feels like one among others in a long season of anniversaries and remembering. How deeply that death grieved me, my farewell to the child and the dream. Today, in retrospect, it feels like one small step in the emptying of my heart. I remember, but it's not so hard to think about. Is this evidence of healing? Or have other wounds cut so much deeper that this scar has faded with time?
I called The Guy, as Robb and I called him. He's done lots of repair work for us in the past - the garbage disposal, the freezer, and some cable lines. Pretty genius guy.
The best thing about him: if he thinks it can be fixed over the phone, he'll simply tell you how and save us both the service call.
"Hi, Jon, it's Tricia calling. I've got some issues with my dryer."
"Can you tell me the make and model?"
"Um, no." I really can't.
"What seems to be the problem?"
"Well, it turns and gets hot, but the clothes aren't drying."
"There's probably an obstruction somewhere in the air duct. Easy to fix. Check to see if the hoses are secure in the back, and then call me back if there's a problem. Just have your husband pull the dryer out for you, and take a peek back there."
I would if I could, Jon. Believe me. And if he could, I wouldn't be on the phone with you. He would have fixed it three weeks ago.
I wrote down Jon's advice, just in case there was anything to forget in the list of "pull out the dryer and check the hoses."
Memories have good hiding places. They are quiet and still in the places I don't expect, and they jump right out at me like a benign halloween ghost with a sheet on his head: not necessarily threatening, but still unsettling if I didn't see it coming.
Turns out, some were hiding behind the dryer, simply because Robb is the only one who has ever climbed back there.
I also found a Marriott Hotel room key, lost and forgotten in the corner. It probably fell out of his pocket after a business trip.
He brought his room keys home to the boys as souvenirs. (Little boys love little souvenirs.)
I worked swiftly in his space, checking the hoses, cleaning out lint, giving everything a general once-over, and feeling like he was close enough to touch.
My brakes are acting weird. Three lightbulbs are burnt out in the bathroom. Student loans are due. License tags need renewed. It might be recycle week. It might not. Either way, I need to take out the trash. The handle to the dresser drawer came off. I would like to hang that picture. My car needs to be washed. It's time to get the mail. I probably need an oil change again. I wonder what our vision insurance benefits are. The Costco membership needs renewed. I need to get the carpets cleaned. The American Express bill came. The bank thinks he's still alive.
It's not that all of these tasks belonged to him; it's just that now they all belong to me.
We made a good team. We shared roles well. I realize now that I only thought about what I needed to. He took good care of me.
Now it is the minutiae of details that so often keep me from coming anywhere near the giant, blazing, unchanging truth:
This place lured me in with their specials, their rewards card, their convenience. But that might not be enough.
She cut my toe as she began the pedicure. Cut my toe. Blood.
She quickly began applying this blue glue, a gel that works as a quick cure band aid. She kept casting quick glances my way to see if I noticed my own injury.
"What is that?" I asked, feeling a sense of rightful ownership of my foot.
"Oh, eets okay. It fine."
She did paint a lovely design on my toes, one which the boys believe is the Diet Pepsi logo. Could be, really. Great environmental literacy, gentlemen.
As she worked on my nails, a relaxing (?) luxury I allow myself every other week, a fly buzzed between the two of us. I casually blew it away as it landed on or around me. But she finally had enough.
Suddenly, she shouted, "Zaaaah! Zaaaah!"
And if that were not alarming enough, she raised a paper towel roll over her head and aimed it at me. I kid you not. She was ready to pop me with her paper towels, in an effort to get that fly.
I ducked. (Can you blame me?)
I think the fly took his cue. I don't remember him coming back. But that could be because I was distracted by the fact that she was picking her own acryllic nails off while my polish was drying.
I've never had acryllic nails, but I feel pretty safe in saying that I don't think the standard procedure for removal is to wedge something underneath the nail and forcefully pluck it off, leaving glue and debris behind on the nailbed.
I mean, I can't be sure. I just don't think that's how it goes.
As the other patrons left, I was the only one to remain. The other manicurists gathered around our station, telling stories in another language (stories that seemed to evoke strong, pouding emotion from each other).
And as they spoke, they shelled and munched on pumpkin seeds. They nibbled away on them like squirrels on acorns, taking itsy bites with their front teeth. They cracked and chiseled at the shells, letting them fall to the floor.
p.s. Last month, she attended me while she stayed on the phone with a creditor. An angry phone call, complete with her bill laying in front of me. Let's just say it's not good for one's cuticles if her manicurist is angry.
Hands start shaking. Heart is pounding. Faster, faster. Everything feels loud, too much. I might feel too hot. I might feel too cold. Something is wrong. Something is terribly, horribly wrong. I need to know what is wrong. I need to know what has happened. I need to know what's next. I need to close my eyes. I need quiet. I need to hold on to someone, something, anything.
This is panic.
It is a strong, sweeping current. To put one's feet down is counterintuitive. To think with logic is to swim upstream.
If you're sitting beside someone when panic hits them, be patient. Be calm. Don't ask questions; decisions incite further panic.
"What do you need?" I don't know what I need. "Can I help you with something?" Yes, please. "Do you need water?" Please get me a glass. But don't place it in my hands; I may not be able to hold it. "Keep breathing." I'm trying. "Deep breaths." I'm trying. "Slow down. I'm trying.
Conversation is helpful. You could tell me a story. Your words may slow the centrifugal force of my convinced thoughts that something horrible has happened, will happen, is happening - even if all is well.
But don't ask me to respond. I probably can't answer you.
Just talk. Gently and quietly. About something else.
I might seem annoyed or agitated; that's because I'm trying to swim upstream and that's hard to do. I cannot control the physiology, I can only try to grab onto a limb of truth as the current threatens to carry me away.
If you're sitting with someone in panic, talk slowly and gently. Talk about something else. Don't ask them to respond. Just be patient.
This long dark season of everything stripped to nothing began so sudden, overnight with the gust of one phone call, then never left. The only miracle here is waiting to see how much night a day can hold and still be called day.