I am exhaused.
Physically, I have been coughing for over a week. The gunk is gone from my lungs but there is a risidual tightness left. By the end of the day, I feel like I’m sucking air through a straw again. I don’t sleep well which makes Amelia not sleep well.
The littles are playing well together…a little too well. Amelia is in her pushing-buttons phase. Figuratively and literally. She makes me crazy. And Ella enjoys egging her on, laughing like a damn fool at her little sister doing something naughty. If you know it’s wrong, then why does it feel so right to laugh? (Ever see the “Jackass” movies? I rest my case.) Yesterday was the height of the madness. I was too tired to care and ignored them and their messes all day. Until, back to back, Amelia emptied the kleenex box, one tissue at a time, and then the very new baby wipes box. And Ella just laughed and laughed.
And I lost my temper. Nothing horrible. But very loud and very abrupt. I hurt my own voice. And they went to bed, together…partners in crime… at 6:30. Exactly what my own mother would have done. Amelia was horrified. She never got out of Ella’s bed; I think she knew she was in trouble. Oh, but she cried and cried. For two hours she cried. And I sat in my chair like a zen master, eating cookies by the handful (take that WW…I really must eat my feelings or there will be consequences) and reading the Sunday paper. When I had finished both cookies and paper, I went in and rescued Ella from the noise her sister was making.
“I tried to calm her down. I was rubbing her back.” I know baby. We’ll try another day. I took an exhaused Amelia into my arms. Amelia mumbled “Mommy’s bed….mommy’s bed…night-night mommy’s bed…”
Good night, Ella. I love you. “Mommy?” Yes, Ella. “Tomorrow remember to take your medicine that makes you happy mommy.” Sigh. I will. Note to self: don’t take oldest child to pharmacy anymore. (Sidenote: those would be the birth control pills that my midwife put me on to end the constant PMS…I know it’s not fixing the problem but at least I feel in better control…I should really explain them better to Ella but I don’t want to her think that I’m actually sick.)
Mentally, it was a taxing morning. I met with my pastor today which was significant because we haven’t really talked since the morning that we planned Stephen’s funeral. He and Stephen are the same age and Stephen’s death was as significant to him as it was to anyone else. I had some very specific, nagging questions that I felt could only be answered by him. Not that he knew God’s answers but that maybe Stephen had said something to him when I wasn’t around much in his last two days. I know that Kurt had visited when I wasn’t there and I have always wondered what they talked about.
My most pressing question was this: Did Stephen know he was dying?
I have been thinking alot about it lately and I don’t know why. Stephen had a ton of fight in him, even to the last day. He had more than I am capable of understanding. And I don’t know why. Maybe that’s where he and I were different. I would have fought, sure, but at some point I would have wanted to bow out gracefully. I would have wanted to say goodbye.
And he never did. Say goodbye, that is.
Because, in his mind, saying goodbye was tantamount to admitting defeat. To being done. To rolling over and admitting that this cancer had gotten the best of one more good person. Had broken up yet another family.
But did he know? Did he know that the hours were numbered? He had to know something was going wrong because of the throngs of long distant relations coming to touch his hand and see for themselves the hollow cheeks and pained expressions, the curtains that were never drawn open and the food trays delivered and picked up untouched. Did he know? Did he know what the purple bracelet meant?
That was my other question. One, did he know he was dying and two, did he know that I had put a DNR on him? I never told him. I carried that secret with me that last day. If he would have asked, I would have told and would have been glad to unburden my soul to him. Maybe it would have opened the conversation that could have started with “I will never love somebody the way I have loved you…”
Maybe I could have asked the tough questions. I could have asked what he wanted the girls to remember most. I could have asked him if he wanted me to dare love again…if it was okay for his girls to call someone else “daddy”. I could have asked him if he was scared or if he was ready. I could have told him that he didn’t have to fight anymore…that it was okay to rest. He didn’t have to care what anyone else thought…not me, not his dad, not the girls, not the doctors. He could just be still.
Maybe. It could have gone that way if I had had the courage to tell him about the empty purple bracelet.
Maybe he would have told me about a secret stash of love letters to me…one to open on each anniversary. Or maybe there was a journal somewhere. Or a video. Maybe there was a random password in his wallet that contained answers to all my questions. Maybe he had prepared what he was going tell Will.
Or maybe it took all the energy he had to steal that peppermint and oxygen flavored last kiss.
And maybe I’m left wondering, palms up and jaw slack. Waiting for the answer to strike like lightning in a snowstorm.