Where I am
Please, come with me to crazy-town.
Life is heavy these days. I find it hard to believe I wrote last week’s post mere hours before a massacre of children. Then I lost a friend to pancreatic cancer. Marcia was my sister’s very good friend who gamely allowed me into her circle. She was the kind of steadying presence I took for granted, a warm and funny neighbor when we lived in Park Slope, someone I was delighted to run into and occasionally invite out for coffee, back when we could do those things, and now I wish I had spent more time with her, I wish a pandemic hadn’t made casual coffee dates impossible for so long, I wish I had emailed her back that one time, I wish, I wish.
Then Henry came down with something. Not COVID, but it sounded bad. Fever, bad cough, congestion, the works. Saturday was my birthday and we were out for brunch and all I could think was that Henry hadn’t texted me back, and maybe his virus had taken a turn and now he was seriously ill. My legs felt weak and my heart started racing. “I realize this is insane,” I confessed to Scott, “but when Henry doesn’t write me back immediately, I think he’s dead.” It helps to say these things out loud.
“That is insane,” he confirmed. And then a few more hours went by, and I texted and texted and finally called. He sounded horrible, but alive. The next day was the same; I texted him “how are you?” and got no response for minutes, for hours, and I had two concurrent thoughts: “the worst has happened,” and “leave the kid alone, for Christ’s sake.” But I couldn’t! So much was going wrong, here and everywhere, who was to say he didn’t have monkeypox, didn’t need me to come rushing to his aid at just that moment, wasn’t struggling for breath as he —
He called me back, as you probably guessed. Still miserable, still living.
I only texted him yesterday (I’m getting better!) and he texted me back right away that he was a little better. It took everything I had not to bug him again today. Day’s not over yet. He’s very patient with me. Henry is everything good in this world, incidentally, in case you didn’t know. I think about those babies murdered in their school, those babies who were everything to their parents, and I feel like I’m going insane from rage and fear.
I’m sorry. I swore I wouldn’t bring you down with me this week. (I bet many of you are already down here with me, though. Hi.)
My friend Wendy sent me a card way back when I was pregnant with Henry. The card read: “Nothing is too wonderful to be true.” This was when I worried that because I was so excited about my pregnancy, it would surely be snatched from me. I put this card on the refrigerator, I said it every day like a mantra. It helped. I still think it, sometimes. But isn’t the opposite also correct? Doesn’t it feel like we’ve ratcheted up the horror until nothing is too awful to be true? When do we get a break? When can we feel safe?
A memory I wanted to share with you. It’s one of my first memories, and I think about it a lot. I’m sitting up in my crib. The sunlight is streaming through a yellow blanket that’s serving as a tent over me. My sister and her friend are playing peek-a-boo with me, their heads popping through the blanket at irregular intervals. I am beside myself with joy, cramming my fist into my mouth, cackling. Here they come, and there they go. I have no idea what’s going to happen next. But I know it’s going to be great.
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I totally get it. Being a parent is terrifying.
Yes. Just yes.