I was so puffy. My sinuses felt like rocks or raisins or something that had been pressed through a particularly difficult process of drying and hardening.
I had wept the night before. I had spread myself across the shadow of Robb, where I said goodbye to him, and I wept bitterly. I saturated a t-shirt with tears and snot, leaving streaks on the carpet and strings of yuck on my face. Sometimes it’s really that awful. I wept until I could not breathe.
And now it was the morning after, and every part of me felt the hangover of such a battle the night before.
A friend of mine has written a book that will be released this spring, and she has given me the honor of reading it before the rest of the world falls in love with it (Renewed, by Lucille Zimmerman).
Lucille writes about the times when negative emotions join us once again. Instead of pushing past them, she invited me to care for myself in a way I would nurture someone else. To wrap my arms around those emotions and say, “Welcome, old friend. I know how to care for you.”
I’m a nurturer at my core, so this language makes sense to me. Take it easy, Tricia. Emotional grief takes a lot of space.
I sat on the deck with a cup of coffee, a pumpkin spice muffin, and Brennan Manning. Or, his thoughts inside a hard cover. (You know how I am. Books are my friends; authors are my breakfast guests.)
The boys were tumbling and tossling, doing their thing that is so rarely quiet or peaceful, until they realized I was both quiet and peaceful outside.
“Mommy, can we come sit with you and eat something?” It’s difficult to know which they wanted more. I said yes. Come, and bring food.
“Guys, I’m having a rough morning today, and I need your help this morning.”
Tyler hands me a Gogurt, waiting for me to tear it open at one end. The yogurt always spurts out over my fingertips. I lick it off, even though I hate yogurt.
“Boys, I cried a lot last night. I cried really hard.”
“But, Mommy, I didn’t even hear you crying so hard.”
Well, dear one, that’s because I don’t let myself cry where you can hear me when you’re sleeping. That’s because you should get to be a little boy.
My sweet Tuck, ever listening and ever watchful to make sure his mom is okay, even after he has fallen asleep.
“Can you guys take care of me today? You can do that by obeying, listening well, and not fighting. Those are great ways to take care of me.”
“Yes, and we could go to Chuck E. Cheese or Pump It Up.”
This is not what I was planning; these are not examples of my personal self care.
“I don’t know . . . I was leaning more toward the farmers market.”
I entice them with promises of fresh baked goods and the hope of a face-painting booth. They’re in.
(Hours later, the trip would go reasonably well, resulting in green tomatoes, White Chocolate Mint Bread, gourds, squashes, pumpkins, three flowering mums, and a long silky skirt that I bought from a college student who needs money for books. I always feel a little like a hippie when I stroll and shop among this eco-friendly community. The farmers market leaves my skin warm and my spirit charmed. Every time.)
Tyler has disappeared from the table for a moment, and he returns with Table Topics, our box of conversation starters.
He sets it down on the tile table, presenting me with the gift of conversation. I laughed out loud. “Oh, Tyler, I love you.” He couldn’t know that I had been begging God to arm me with strength for this day, to show me how to be present with my children when I felt hardly present in my body. Well, here’s one way I could start.
We pull out the first card.
Would you rather be funnier, smarter, or more athletic?
Tyler chooses funnier.
Tucker chooses smarter.
Tyler changes his answer to match Tucker’s.
I am feeling okay with my sense of humor and smarts, so I choose to be more athletic . . . since never in my life has the bat met the ball. I imagine that to be one glorious rush.
What is something you admire about your parents?
Tucker says, “I admire you when you take me to Chuck E. Cheese.” (Nice try. I’m so very seriously not going there today.)
Tyler needs clarification on what it means to admire. He says he admired daddy for playing horsey with him. This is Tyler’s most vivid memory of Robb, one he talks about every day.
And I have to agree: I admire Robb’s willingness to play on the floor with them – every single night – in ways I just couldn’t do. There’s a rough housing (that’s a strange phrase) that comes with the testosterone, and I can’t come anywhere near meeting that desire. (But I was always close by to nurture when the housing got too rough.)
Next question: What would be the positives and negatives about a new baby in your family?
Tucker says, “There would be so much poop.”
It’s true. There would be a lot of poop.
I say, “I wouldn’t get to sleep very much, because babies need a lot from their moms at night.” (The boys don’t see this as a problem.)
Tyler says, “I would be a big brother.”
Tucker says, “I should drink diet Coke. Then I could shrink and you could be the bigger brother now.” (This reminds me of a question I overheard, “If you shrink, does your happiness shrink with you?”) They launch into a diatribe of names for a younger sibling. Their choices include Lily and Z-Lo.
“Mommy, if you ever have another baby, would you love him as much as us?”
“I sure would.” None of us is sure how that’s possible, but I know it is. It just always is.
Tyler interrupts me. “Mommy, can you please be quiet now?” He is holding a pink Verizon cell phone to his ear, a toy whose origins I don’t really understand.
“Oh, are you on the phone?”
“Yes, and it’s a very important call.”
By all means, buddy. By all means.