Monday, March 8, 2010

Strong? Not so much.

So I'm going to tell you why it bugs me a little when people tell me how I'm so strong or they don't know how I do it. You know, the whole alone with four kids thing. The whole holding your baby in your arms after he's gone. The whole talking talking talking talking nonstop all day every day to get words to your deaf toddler so he can stay on track, because even with implants, other kids who hear and learn more easily, more naturally than he does.

I'll tell you the big just do it. 

What are the other options? I didn't ask to be strong...I'd love to be in a position where I could be more dependent and let someone else take care of everything. And yet those aren't the cards I was dealt. It's been hard, the last few years, trying to come to terms with why Eli died. It's been hard, wondering if it's my fault that he's gone, my fault that Seth's deaf. It's been hard wondering how much of John leaving was my fault. It's been hard wondering, wanting to cry all the time or sleep the days away. It's been hard, wanting to be selfish but not being able to. 

There was a night after John left...our wedding anniversary, when I had to see him. I called him, and it went to voicemail. I called again. Same result. I called again and again and again, and each time I heard his voicemail pick up, I got a little more desperate and I found myself gasping for air. Every time I heard his voice, bright and cheery, on the phone line, I fell apart a little more. 

I probably called him seventeen times, leaving messages, telling him I needed him, needed to talk to him, that we had to see each other. This was less than forty eight hours after I'd found out about her, after my best friend and I had sat in my living room flipping through page after page of phone records I had never bothered to check, seeing a number I'd never seen over and over.  Somehow I knew what I would hear when I picked up the phone, hands shaking, and called it myself. Voicemail. Young, bright. Phone calls in the morning. In the middle of the day. In the middle of the night. Calls. I felt like the biggest fool in the world. 

And two days later I was dialing his number desperately, thinking if I could see him we could fix it. But he never answered, and all at once, I was completely overwhelmed. I left him messages saying that I didn't want to hurt myself, but I was afraid that I might, because I couldn't do this. I didn't know how to do life when the man I was married to wouldn't even answer my calls. I didn't want to be alive anymore feeling like that. In the midst of it I managed to call my best friends and neighbors and in moments they were there, on either side of me, while I rocked back and forth on the floor and cried big, ugly, heaving sobs mixed with a healthy dose of panic and Tommy literally held me down on one side praying continuously over me while Mara sat with her arm around me on the opposite side. 

It was what you might call a break down of sorts, a breakdown that left me literally lying broken on my floor, wondering how I could possibly survive losing one more thing I loved, survive being pregnant and alone.

Tommy got ahold of John that night, and he did eventually show up. He told me later that after he listened to my messages he was convinced he would show up to find me dead on the floor. Of course, that didn't stop him from trying to put me back together with figurative bandaids, telling me whatever I wanted to hear, and taking off as soon as possible. 

I came closer that night to losing myself than I ever have before or since. Losing my husband has been, in many ways, worse than losing my son, because I do it all over again every day, every time I see him. That night, though, I literally thought I couldn't survive. 

And yet. 

Morning came, and Seth woke up, and Ava and Jace came shuffling out of their room. I fed them cereal. We played on the same floor I had lost control on the night before. We put on clothes, we went to the park. 

We went on. 

But it wasn't because I was strong, it was because it was what I had to do. Because when it came down to it, no matter how hopeless I felt, I would never take hope away from them, I would never take their life as they knew it away from them. I would never take me, the mom they're stuck with for better or worse, away from them.  

That doesn't make me a perfect mom. I'm a typical mom, a mom who is subpar lots of days, who yells more than I want to. I always forget to put notes in the kids lunches and most days you'll find us all eating frozen waffles as we rush out the door, fifteen minutes late. I will never be the mom who has it all together, polished and perfect, but I will be the mom who tries her hardest to keep her family together. 

That's why, eight months after that night I laid on my floor wishing I could die, I am instead writing you this. Even when it feels like the night will never be over, the morning does come. And when it does, there will be hugs and parks and cereal. There will be people who show up with meals so that you can think about one less thing, people who wrap their arms around you and tell you they love you, and then, because they know you're not hearing them, they tell you again and again until you do. They will be God with skin on, little tiny rays of sunshine slicing through the darkness when you least expect them, reminding you that life is still out there, if you can just bring yourself to live it. 

So you do, because what else are you supposed to do, really?

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