I hugged Tobey to me this morning just as he was waking. He shifted a bit, letting me slip an arm under his slight frame so that I could pull him against me. My face pressed into the crook of his neck, and I smelled the sweetness of sleep, felt his warm skin against my cheek. “Good morning,” he let out in a long sigh. His breath was sour. I’ve wondered for a long time when he would have morning breath because since he was a baby he’d always woken with sweet breath, a breath untainted by life’s hardships. But in the past months it’s changed. As will his body. As will the look in his eyes. As will his desire for me to wake him with this big, intimate, sweet embrace.
Neither of my children has moved away from me. They come freely to me for hugs and comfort. But I prepare. I remind myself: They will leave. It’s as inevitable as the date that seems months away and is suddenly here, and then after a night of tearing open packages and putting logs on the fire, of sipping tea and breaking off yet another piece of toffee, it’s gone for another year. Yet unlike Christmases and birthdays and sunny vacations, my son will never be blurry-eyed and eight again. His neck will never smell just like this. Already, I can’t remember his infant scent or the feel of his two-year old hand. They are gone. For this fleetingness, I cry. And try – try perhaps too hard – to be thankful. Because if I can’t be thankful for it, all I am left with is the longing for that which is passing even as I hold it warmly in my arms.
Post-script to last week’s post: Thank you for your support. I was buoyed, humbled, warmed, and strengthened. Something shitty has happened – but shitty things happen and each one is an opportunity. I believe this. Not that this was particularly shitty – it just was – but somehow this has reminded me of how when I was really pregnant with Bella and two or even three times a night I’d need to go to the bathroom, which meant sllllowly descending the very steep, rickety steps of the old farmhouse where we lived, grasping onto the hand railing and trying to focus my eyes in the dark, I’d repeat a mantra: “At least we have a toilet; at least we have a toilet…” This would get me to the bathroom without cursing – and sometimes even smiling. I’m not sure what my mantra is now, but I do know that you have all been holding on to my ankles this week, anchoring me so that I don’t fall away into shame or ablaze into anger. Thank you.