They are small, black, and almost webbed. The things the beautiful technician, in her thick mask and black gown, sticks on his head. On his curly, always unruly, head of hair. The glue is thick – Like paste, like chalk, like this is happening to someone else’s child. Not mine.
He is small – clutching his book about trucks that go “vrooom” – and he is tired. I am tired. We are tired. She wraps white gauze around his head while I try to read him the silly book. He screams. He tries to get off the hospital bed but all the wires in different colors hold him down. My beautiful boy.
I whisper in his ear. I tell him all of our secrets and happy things but he is scared. He grabs the wires, flips himself around, pulls them. Pulls his hair. I try to stop him. I try.
He finally falls asleep and we are holding hands. And I can cry then. My white mask is soon wet and I can feel him jerk, his arms and his legs, and his eyes flutter. I can see the technician. I see her take notes. Hit keys.
I look at my boy. I memorize his face again. I see the wires. I think of my Grandmother. I pray, though I am not religious. I ask her to make sure my boy will be okay. I miss her.
When the technician wakes him up he screams. Tears running down his face. She flashes bright lights in his beautiful eyes and he looks at me, the glue matted in his hair, and he screams “mama mama mama out out out.”
I am broken. Shattered. Twisted like the fucking wires. But he is mine and I am his and I will wash the glue out of his hair. I will cry while writing this. I will cry in bed. I will cry.
I notice the eyes first – the rapid blinking – when he is young. Before he can lift a spoon to his mouth. Before he can tell me he loves me with his cherub hands reaching for my neck. Before his first birthday. They blink quickly, fiercely, strangely. But I am new at this ; this clothing, this hair, this body that tells me I am more Mother then anything else right now. I am up at 5:30 because he cries and I am asleep when he stops, 16 hours later.
And then he grows up: he is suddenly three years old, he has words now and he strings them together. He tells he ‘loves me’ but it is only me who can hear it. He is still so young; his words only make sense to me. But we are one person now. He is mine and I am his and we read five books before bed. And he looks at me, sometimes angry and sometimes full of light, and I am exhausted, my face is pale and my pants have dirt on them from stomping in puddles together. He is mine and I am his. He is clean and I am not.
His eyes move more quickly now and I think to myself…They are not normal now. They blink like they did when he still slept in my arms but they are angry now – somehow on their own – they move rapidly from right to left and sometimes up and down.
I have found him on the carpet – he finds soft places to land when I cannot see him – lying on his back, his eyes scattered and his mouth moving like he is talking but no sound comes out. Not a word. He is present but he is not here in those brief moments. I stare at him for hours each day. I notice his hands, the way they sometimes operate when the rest of his body is silent, they are stiff, stuck.
I start to mourn before I am told because I already know. My sweet boy.
When I walk, with my daughter’s small hand in mine, I see flowers despite it being December. The kind of flowers that survive the winter; short stocks and yellow tops surrounded by burnt red ash leaves. My daughter always bends down, puts one hand to the gravel and grabs the flower with force. She holds it up to my face, as far as she can reach, and she smiles at me with her little girl smile. She is unaware of everything in that moment save for the flower which she will carry all the way home.
When I am unlocking the door her hands will attempt to push it open like it is locked box and her fingers the key. She will run to her room, her boots dirty, and point to the small glass filled with water on her white dresser. She will point at it, eager, and state “UP. UP. UP” I look at her, this little miracle of mine, and bring the flower close to her nose, “Does it have a smell?” I ask her and she looks at me, her face surrounded by the curls that are more His then Mine. But soft and tight curls just the same.
The world feels a little bit rusty now. It is simply her and that flower and that is all that matters. Her and I.
I hear that headline on CNN – the best case scenario for the USA – and feel uniquely thankful to be Canadian. Uniquely sad as my mind tries to wrap itself around that number. Those people who are not numbers but people. I am also acutely aware of the fact that my Country is likely just a few steps behind – less dense with infection, yes, but trailing nonetheless.
I am exhausted. My bones hurt and my mind is weary. I have always struggled with sleep, this is nothing new, but I can usually pinpoint exactly why. I like reasons, explanations for that which I cannot control. A pandemic when you are a mother is reason enough, right? I’m not sure. When it is 3:00 a.m. and I am doing dishes, listening to an audiobook, I wonder when sleep will steal me away. If it will skip the night entirely. My dog sleeps; he breathes heavily on his bed near the small kitchen table. My daughter is flat on her back, surrounded by her three favorite stuffed animals, sleeping like the angel that she is. But I remain awake.
A friend who is sweet of soul and gentle in touch, allows me to write him long and rambling letters. Six pages, seven. He even reads them – a tall order I expect – and I mail them although he lives just a few minutes away. It helps with the isolation and it reminds me of my checkered past; the people I should have held close but let go. The things I wish I could fix and the things that I have.
It’s raining today but no matter; I will push my daughters stroller up the small mountains that define my location, and later, when all is still, I will kiss her forehead and tell her, “I will see you soon. I love you” and she will sleep and that is all that matters. Her.
Behind me – the news on – I hear the WHO talking about wearing scarves around our faces when we leave our homes; about a second wave of infection coming in the Fall.
At least, I think, my daughter will be too young to remember everything before this, she will only remember everything that came after. I will keep her safe.
Spain turns an ice rink into a morgue. That’s the headline today. One of many. I wonder if the ice rink is kept cold – I wonder if the caskets, dark wood and slim, have names on them. Have you adapted to this yet? Strange how quickly us humans adapt to things – the wonderful things and the frightening things.
It’s my mothers Birthday today. I am the black sheep in the family. I am the first born and the quickest to leave the nest. I make a bit of a mess of my life early on, and then I return, my feathers ruffled, my walls high, but wiser all the same.
Since the age of 18 I have usually been in frustrating, sometimes joyful relationships, that found me celebrating elsewhere, found me wanting. Needing. But things are different now. They need to be.
My daughter, her eyes not yet decided on final color, requires her family. She is pure and she is clean and she is loved by us all. She adores her two cousins – they have beautiful blonde hair like my sister and her husband and they hug her tightly, the older one whispers in her ear, “I woveeee you.“
We cannot gather together in their large windowed living room this year – we must maintain our social distance. You know this. I know this. All of us, six feet apart, know this. But we are still together, my family and I, on my Mothers Birthday. We drop off gifts and we connect online. My Father builds her a greenhouse and time moves on.
That may be the most reliable way to mark time these days – allowing it to just move on.