In 2010, Monkey had a seizure, and I spent about three weeks completely convinced that he had a brain tumor. Otto and I lay in bed at night, holding hands, talking quietly about the “what if”s and sometimes about nothing very important, just because neither of us could sleep and it was comforting to whisper in the dark, together. Then the flu tore through the house the next month, causing us to cancel our holiday trip, and our battle cry became “2011!” As in, “2011 is gonna be our year!”
Well, 2011 was good in that we found out that Monkey didn’t have a tumor and wasn’t dying. That was VERY good. But he did stay out of school for about a month, before/during/after surgery, and then there was the whole ZOMG WHERE IS HE GOING TO SCHOOL NEXT YEAR thing, and other stuff happened, and blah blah blah, whatever; we changed the rallying cry to “2012! That’s going to be our year!”
We were about 5 days in to the new year when Otto changed it to “2013! 2013 FOR SURE!” And Otto is the optimist in this couple, as you know, so… things are Not Good.
I’m worried about Otto. If ever there was a rock of a man, it’s my husband. He thrives under pressure. He’s the one who Fixes and Stays Calm and Does What’s Needed. His armor rarely cracks. Right now I look at him and see an ever-expanding field of hairline fractures. Too many people he loves are struggling in ways he can’t fix. Too many losses loom large.
I’m worried about Monkey. Perversely, I’m worried about him because he’s actually doing FANTASTIC at the moment. He doesn’t know yet that several changes are coming that none of us want, that will likely send him into a tailspin. I don’t ever want to tell him. I want to tell him right away and get it over with. I want things to be different and I want the world to stop changing every time we get him to a good place.
I’m worried about Chickadee. I say things to her she refuses to believe. She’s deeply cocooned in that dark teenage self-absorption that whispers lies and insists they are truth. I make her look me in the eye while I tell her that depression lies, anxiety lies, I DO NOT LIE, I love you more than anything, when have I ever lied to you? And then I add “And don’t say Santa Claus, that doesn’t count.” Sitting on my lap, scrubbing at tears on her cheeks, she squeaks, “Easter Bunny.” We laugh together, just for a moment. For a moment I know I can still reach her. I hold her close. I murmur that it’s not true that she’s never been happy, it’s only true that she’s not happy RIGHT NOW, and I promise she will be happy again. Don’t believe the lies, I tell her. What I mean is “Don’t give in. We are fighting for you and you have to believe it will get better. Stay with me.” I watch her vent her anger and frustration with the ones she feels she cannot talk to on the ones who love her the most, watch her cut wide swaths of hatred with her words, and I know it’s because deep down she knows she is safe, but I hurt for all of us. Mostly for her.
I’m worried about Otto’s mom, who is back in the ICU. I’m worried about Otto’s siblings, and the late-night phone calls to discuss paperwork and what was said to whom when. We joke that Otto’s mom has even more than the nine extra lives of a cat, and that if anyone says, “Remember when we thought she was going to die?” the only appropriate response would be, “Which time?” But then silence hangs between us as we consider the reality, which is that one of these times isn’t going to end that way. Maybe this time.
I’m worried that each year we’ll look to the next, forgetting to savor what’s right in front of us, albeit squashed in-between the various stressors and concerns. I’m worried that 2013 might never come; not in the actual sense, of course, but in the “looking back, that was a great year” sense. There has to be a way to find our footing even while all of the rest of this is happening. It feels like I should know how to do that. It feels like my own personal Groundhog Day, like until I figure this out, these “challenges” will continue heaping on, cosmically prodding me to find that magical way of bending under strain without breaking.
All I know right now is that there’s a whole lot of 2012 to get through before we get to that mythical, perfect 2013.
If you could spare a prayer for my mother-in-law, I would really appreciate that.