I am currently being tossed about my life on waves of Nyquil and Tylenol Cold & Sinus, walking around in a haze of congestion and sore throat. And I’ve thrown up twice now, in my hand and on the floor, after coughing spasms that made me miss morning sickness. In between the retching and the snotting, I pray that I got this from The Kid because if it ends up going the other direction, we’re all screwed.
Speaking of him: since his conception last year, I’ve been sicker than I’ve ever been, the weight of carrying then sustaining a human being bearing down on me with ferocious intensity, the self-centeredness of my former life squeezing out drop by painful drop. One of you called it being “properly broken” and to that I say, damn straight. I am broken to bits but, as I look at that face that looks more like The Husband and me each day, I remember what grace teaches and what I believe: that brokenness is never an epilogue, but always a foreword; the good stuff happens after.
That truth is easy to see in a nearly-one-year-old’s wondering eyes and soft skin; it’s a bit harder when you’re picking up your eighty-five-year-old grandmother from her current assisted living residence and engaging in a constant loop of conversation covering information she has always known until now. Names, places, events, over and over. I listened to The Mom patiently repeat herself for hours as her own mother, right there with us, continued to slip away. We gave her multiple tours of the house she has visited countless times. She held The Kid with TH and I sitting sentry on either side. There were moments of levity that she would have enjoyed a few years ago, laughs we would have good-naturedly had at her expense but let her in on and she would have chided us for being vulgar while grinning herself: when she gazed at the green Publix reusable bag and exclaimed, “What a pretty sack!” or looked upon TK playing with his toys and marveled at “such colorful balls!” or when The Mom, seeking medicinal support, gave her a glass of champagne and she sipped it and said, “Delicious! Now what do you call this again?”
I had to laugh, because the other option was tears and if I let them start I had no certainty they would ever stop.
The one thing we can always seem to be sure of is that the good stuff ends. Health deteriorates, order crumbles, dust gathers, and we are forever picking up pieces of the world and each other. How damn depressing is that?
I caught up with a dear friend last week as I huffed and puffed and pushed TK uphill in his stroller, and she told me that she and her family are finally leaving New York. It’s time. The party always has to end.
But. What’s really the end? If we’re all just settling down and winding down and wearing down, why do we even bother? If dirt is our final destination, what matters anyway?
We dropped her off later that afternoon, and as the change of hands took place between us and her caretakers, I was reminded of dropping off TK at daycare every day. About all the ways we’re called upon to take care of each other, about how so many of those ways involve putting our trust in someone else. About how life winds down but also begins again, the weight of its newness both reminding us of our weakness and making us something we never were before. About how love never leaves us the same, and never gets old.
The Mom and I headed home, quiet and sad and feeling surrounded by no-win options. Then we walked through the door and there were The Dad and TH, and TK was pulling himself up on the chair, headed towards walking. Falling down every time except for the last time, when he won’t.