The Parent He Needs

This is what the ugly thoughts do. This is how the lies start to seem true. My son’s diagnosis weaves into my own, our wounds pull each other into a dark and intimate tango.

Two Souls One Heart

On my son’s first birthday, a stomach virus knocked him flat. For the next few days, he couldn’t keep anything down. Even though he begged for the comfort of nursing, I had to ration his time on the breast. We fed him Pedialyte from a dropper. He screamed in protest until thirst overcame his resistance.

After a few days, he rallied. Small portions of pureed food stayed down. Great quantities of breast milk too. He resumed scooting all over the house and tormenting the dog. The doctor had said he’d get over it, and this seemed to hold true.

Except that he kept losing weight.

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A Frayed Knot

Aksam Gunesi mushroom nest

Sense skates over the damp oil of detangling spray. The film coats my son’s raveled mat. His head is a summer hayfield bleached gold and heavy with dew. At the tips, tendrils going to seed thin and fall away.

Down under all that flower and dust, the stalks twist into themselves. Pile up. Snarl. My fingers burrow to the base of his skull and find the nest there. I begin to brush. Starting at the ends, the gesture is one short stroke. Then another. The brush barks over the ragged rope. Its plastic bristles chatter as if scraped across a guiro’s ridged wooden belly. The boy tolerates this, gripping his nerf gun and re-reading Sunday’s comics.

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Of Mice and Mornings

visitor for bear door

Little holes in the bag of rice gave it away. Three and half years living in this place, and here was the first sign of uninvited guests. On our next trip to town, we stopped at the hardware store for traps. Despite Bug’s insistence that we buy the $39 ultrasonic pest repeller, I opted for Tomcat traps. A four-pack for four bucks.

We smeared on peanut butter and tucked it into the cabinet corner. The next morning, we heard a snap. Big brown eyes, white fuzzy belly, limp broken body. “Oh, he’s so cute,” Bug said sadly. Into the weekday rush we crammed this death. We shrank it down to fit. School, work, a morning meeting and already late. I dumped the trap, mouse and all, into the garbage. Another dab of peanut butter on a clean trap, and off we hustled into our overfull day.

On the drive to school, regret hit hard.

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Inauguration Eve: Make Like a Tree and (Be)lieve

klimt-a-arvore-da-vida

He asks.  I fumble.  Events crash past, plowing under a vocabulary both dated and outgunned.  My words like vestigial limbs grasp at an extinct terrain.

As we drive the short distance home, NPR wallops us with our nightly load of federal ordure. The new Congress just voted to pave the way for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  Our representatives exhumed an old law which will allow them to slash the pay of any federal worker down to $1.  In a stage play of quasi-constitutionalism, those who ask the toughest questions wield no power.  The men in charge anoint a public opponent of civil rights as the nation’s Attorney General and an oil tycoon as Secretary of State.

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Burrowing

making-waves

He slides into bed next to me, his left side far warmer than his right.  His chilled skin  presses in as he drinks from my heat.  “Can you put your arm around me?” He asks.

“Sure, scoot down.”

A shifting.  The sheets tangle and we kick ourselves back to softness.  Dark lingers.  December morning takes her sweet time stretching awake.  We wait her out.

“It’s funny how the neck is shaped,” he says in his dreamy murmur.

“How so?”

“It’s like it’s designed exactly right so someone’s arm can fit underneath.”

He snakes a leg over my left and under my right, snaggled toes seeking the pillowed weight of my calf.  He reaches the length of me now.  This has happened.  Ten years and here, with his hair tickling my jaw, his feet lie loose across mine.

The impression of the tiny beast still marks my skin.  His infancy thrums there, a damp comma curled into my belly and chest.

Continuity hides in the wardrobe of finality.  Once a devotee of context, now I read each moment as a complete sentence, unable to catch the breath at the end (and then, and then, and then. . . )  This is parenthood’s steady (or is it sudden?) erosion of fluency.  Weariness plays tricks on perception.  Serial appears as parable and the mind finds its relief in taking this moment’s story as the only story.

Our morning drifts on like this, as if nothing waits on the other side.  I fear this blindness and cherish it too.  Of course I know my boy will prefer his own bed soon, and then his own room, and then his own place in his own world (and then, and then. . .)

Now he creaks awake into the frosted dawn, this frosted dawn, and comes padding across the distance to find my warmth.  It can’t matter that I’d rather stay soaking alone in my private dream lagoon.  It can’t matter that we’ll both grump and fumble through our mid-afternoon exhaustion.  The only thing to do is turn back the blankets and unfurl the sash of my body.  A decade since he left it, and it fits him perfectly. For this fleeting forever, we fold into one.


Image: Rob Gonsalves, “Making Waves”

Director’s Cut

film-reel

He blocks the dryer, wild eyes and a grin.  I duck, pump, shoot.  His wet boxer shorts whip past his ear and splat against the back wall of the drum.

“Oh man!” He turns and yanks a shirt from the washer tub, untwisting its rope of an arm from a pillowcase.  He cuts in front of me and pivots.  Past my block, he fakes then scores.  “Yes!” Fist in the air.

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Dousing It

tapestry

We can do so much better.  For the past few years, our patterns were stuck enough to seem hopeless. This past June, I made the choice to cultivate a more loving home.

After a long summer that included a stretch of five weeks apart, my son is back.  This is the first night of his 4th grade year that he is spending with me.  The evening coincides with a parent-teacher event.  This means my boy runs wild around the neighborhood with his pals for a few hours before I have to leave him behind.  He comes in, flushed and breathless, and parks himself in front of his video games.  I lock the door behind me.

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