It’s 8:40am here.
My daughters are pretending to be puppies together in their room, sitting together, conspiring, flipping through books. Talking, singing, occasionally arguing, needing to be reminded to tone it down, stop using “that” word, be gentle.
Normal , normal little girls on a lazy Saturday morning, one we’ll repeat for years and they’ll remember fondly when they’re 30 something and sitting listening to their children, or lazying about reading the paper over coffee.
A friend sent me an email, speaking of a friend, a friend losing a wife to cancer, with a small child to be left behind.
The hatred she feels for cancer, to sitting on the outside of all of it, the impotent rage we all feel towards disease.
She was there with me. She knew my mother, took snacks from her hands. She was the first person I told, casually on the sidewalk down from her house “she’s dead, it’s better now, she’s not suffering”, my shock buffering me from reality at that point, as it would that night, performing in a play no one expected me to show up for, and into the next few days, until the wake.
She held me up in that church, and my weeping filled it’s grand arches, and pity wafted over the crowd like a stink you can’t get off. She held me up down that aisle, and with a wisdom most don’t grant an 11 year old, sat me down in the vestibule, and told me it was ok.
I couldn’t tear my eyes from that coffin, and the finality of it that day, it cursed the shock and frightened it off. She stayed strong beside me, despite her own fear, that standard fear I knew every other girl felt when they saw me, the worry that my loss would rub off and become theirs. She didn’t let me see it.
I remembered her pain this morning, her helplessness. I remembered mine, thinking of that small child and his father, facing a lifetime without their love.
And I thought of my fear, my girls. My fear of leaving them chases me everywhere. I can forget it somedays, but memory might return it to me, or stories of other mothers, other families left bereft. I can see them, growing without me, the path I took harsh and not one I want for them. So I hope. And I hope that cancer won’t touch me, that my bipolar will recede and relax it’s hold, that they won’t wake up one day without me. I fear so completely leaving them, leaving my family, becoming only a memory, a voice on tape, a scent washed from sheets.
I fear. I ignore that fear, I walk away from it deliberately. Yet somedays, when sweet voices hover in the air, I remember that day that crashed, and the fear swells. I leave it of course, but it’s always there.
Such is life though.