Outside the window, leaves drift lazily through raindrops.
On the floor below me, the dog is asleep in his bed. The dog you didn’t want. The dog you adore.
All five kids are firmly established in their Friday afternoon whirlwind. Crew practice, a job washing dishes, watching the varsity football game. College.
More like a bad cold.
This morning I woke up coughing. A slight fever. Nothing terrible.
You canceled your morning. I was surprised.
Later, I emailed a dear friend. I mentioned you were home. I made a sarcastic comment about how I wish you did this when the kids were little.
She suggested perhaps now that the dental practices are established, you have more time and space to be who you always wanted to be.
This is what good friends do.
Instead of riding our bitter wave, they gently steer the ship towards grace.
Now, I have a rare moment of solitude. Everyone is good. Everyone is busy.
I picture you at the office, moving from patient to patient. In between fillings and check-ups, you sit in your office upstairs. Photos of the kids flank the desk. A picture of Derek Jeter hangs on the wall.
I open my laptop. I try to log into Apple TV.
I can’t get it to work. I give up and open my notebook instead. Pen to paper, I always write better this way.
In the beginning, it was the two of us.
Twenty-nine years. That’s how long I’ve known you.
We were husband and wife first. Then, mother and father five times.
In the beginning, we were hands clasped on a sunlit campus, autumn’s confetti beneath our feet.
Then, the swish of white. A dash of black tie. Silhouettes before the priest, posed family photos, all stiff smiles and jangled nerves. Who will we be? What have we done?
Our first pregnancy. It was like watching the sun rise, all spectacular glory and light.
We were besotted. His blue eyes. His long lashes. His skinny legs.
Another pregnancy. Then another. Besotted still. Yet tired.
One doesn’t answer to his name no matter how many ways we say it.
A small vibration of fear started to beat beneath our ribcages. The tiniest drum. Our new rythym.
Diagnosis day. Autism Spectrum Disorder. We order pizza.
Next, a girl. Pink mixed in with all that blue. The last, we agree, until a missed doctor’s appointment rearranges our plans. A fifth. A boy. Stair steps now: boy-boy-boy-girl-boy.
We are in trouble. Too many outstretched palms and tiny voices. Too many unknowns. Still, he doesn’t talk. Still, I watch you try.
We fight our way back. We fight to remember the white and the dash of black. Nights on the couch, the words fly. Nocturnal arguments are punctuated by moments of pure joy in the daylight. They keep us afloat.
We hold on tight like the good priest warned we should.
Life is a slideshow. Afternoons at the beach. Christmas morning. The first day of school. I worry I don’t have time for each one of them. They fill my spirit. They break my heart. You are here for it all. My witness. This man whose hand I once held amongst the leaves.
We find our groove. Still, our timeworn dynamic plagues us. Long stretches of oceanic calm, then a riptide of anger threatens to drag us beneath the waves.
I stop holding on to grudges. I let them go like so many kites in the wind. They are weightless. They float to the sky. They mean nothing.
Now, breathing space between teenagers. Waiting for the sweep of headlights up the long driveway. We miss the outstretched palms. They were shaped like stars. Inhale. Exhale.
We figure out how to apologize. Apologies, I’ve learned, do not come on command. Like seedlings, they need light and air to blossom. Mostly they need space to grow.
Twenty-five years, in the blink of an eye. This new season is one of somewhat ease. Is the dynamic gone? Is the tide gone calm? Not exactly. Sometimes, our voices still rise and fall in their jaggedness.
We are impossibly old to them. Our glasses, our crackling knees, the way we can’t remember if it was Bill Pullman or Bill Paxton in the movie.
They scoff, our kids, perched as they are in their exceptional youngness.
Will they ever forgive us for all the mistakes we made?
Time is the most hideous thief. It steals the good memories. It steers us toward our worst moments.
The rain is heavier now. It drums upon the roof – the tympani of the sky.
Perhaps I’ll close my eyes for a while.
Perhaps I’ll dream of you.