I wonder how many of you spend your days unable to tell anyone how it’s really going? Whether due to privacy, a fear for job security, or even shame, it must be one of the loneliest feelings in the world to keep all the struggles inside.
I don’t know how many times I’ve read through this day. At least four or five. Every time, it hits me a different way, my emotional responses fluctuating between heartbreak and pride and sympathy pangs of loneliness and a strong urge to hug this mom holding it all together. It’s different from the others in a few ways, but one you’ll notice immediately is its anonymity. Due to a need to protect the privacy this family, we’ll call the narrator of this day JG. I’ll let her tell you their story.
It is Wednesday. My day begins around 6:45 when I hear my five year old son open the door to his bedroom and dash up the stairs to his older sister’s room. I know she’ll go turn on the television for him, and the two of them will watch maybe an hour’s worth of TV. We’ve got the kids hooked on one our old favorites, Gilligan’s Island.
My middle child who is ten is now awake. I know this even though she doesn’t make a sound. I say a quick prayer for strength and patience to help me through this day. Then I check Facebook, Instagram, and my email because I enjoy being lost in the moment of make believe, if even for just 20 minutes. My son pops into my room to say that he’s hungry and asks permission to eat a chocolate-covered granola bar. That’s my cue. I leave my bed and start my work in the kitchen.
Luckily, I did most of the dishes last night. I am happy with myself for doing extra work yesterday so that today could begin with a lighter load. I then gather laundry from everyone’s bedroom and start a load in the washroom. I cruise through the house to find out what everyone wants for breakfast. The requests are easy today. Everyone wants cold cereal.
After breakfast, the girls take turns practicing piano before the piano teacher arrives.
Piano lessons are over. It’s ten o’clock.
My husband is awake and probably has been for about an hour. I saw him on the couch upstairs when I was taking breakfast requests. I ask what his schedule is today. He indicates that he has an appointment and some paperwork to turn in. Then he’ll be back at 3:00 to take our middle child to her eye appointment.
I head downstairs to encourage the kids to get dressed, brush hair and teeth, and make their beds. They kind of do some of those things.
They head out to the back yard to play. I field a phone call from my mother. We talk about the fact that my family is still in limbo. I prepare her for a bombardment of four family members in July. I don’t know if it will be for a few weeks for for more like four months. I remind her that this family does not transition well; having moved about six times now I consider myself an expert on this subject. In fact I tell her, “It will be Hell. Get ready.”
I hang up with my mom and switch the laundry loads. I drag a dusty box to the backyard and sort through it, preparing for a move that may occur after the kids and I leave this house. The kids are hungry again.
It’s lunch time. I have my eye on the clock. We’re supposed to meet friends at the pool by one o’clock. I scurry about in the kitchen, attempting to come up with three non-boring lunches plus whatever will fill my gluten-free gut.
My middle child asks, “Mom, if Dad is here, why does it feel like he isn’t?” I ask her what she means, hoping that she’ll rephrase and say something I can answer because I honestly don’t know what to say. My son saves me from my bewilderment when he replies, “He’s probably upstairs on the couch playing on the iPad.” The answer satisfies her. I quickly eat some turkey and sugar-snap peas. Bellies are filled.
I happily direct the kids to change into their swim clothes. My husband has come downstairs and changed into his BDUs – Battle Dress Uniform, also known as camos). He’s heading to his appointment. The kids are donning swimsuits and goggles. We head to the pool.
Everyone has a great time at the pool. The mountains provide a gorgeous backdrop. I begin to mourn the loss of living in my favorite location. Out of the seven states I’ve lived in, this one has been my favorite. The mountains bring such peace, even during this…our roughest phase in life.
At 2:45 we leave the pool and head home so my middle child can make it to her eye appointment. My husband meets us in the garage. The two of them take off. I take my other two kids to the library to return books that are due and to check out new ones. Bonus, today they get their first reward from the summer reading program. They happily hold on to their coupon sheets. My son holds his up to ask what all of the coupons are for. I read them to him while getting out my library card so my oldest child can put another book on hold. She’s reading the Lemony Snicket series, and our library is out of copies of book 11 in the series.
We return home. My oldest goes upstairs to read on her floor. She doesn’t choose her soft, queen-size bed or her bean bag. She sits on the carpet in a ball and reads. My son heads to his room to play with his toys. He makes noises for cars and trains. I smile. I love how he entertains himself. A rain storm comes up suddenly. No hail falls from the sky this time. My husband and daughter return. There’s just a couple of things to report from the eye appointment. My husband retreats to our bedroom. He’s done for the day. He had one appointment for himself, some papers to turn in, and the eye appointment for our daughter. He turns on the classical music and lies on our bed.
It’s four o’clock. I fold laundry and put it all away. The kids each clean up one room in the house. Then they play for the next hour or so, starting out together but then forced apart by me. The contention irritates me, so I require them to all find separate spaces and places. I can tell they’re all hungry, so I get to work on dinner in the kitchen. I remember during its preparation that the girls have an activity at the church tonight. Except, it’s actually at someone’s house this time, instead of at the church. They’re watching a movie for tonight’s activity in their pajama bottoms that they sewed at a previous activity. If the girls want to watch the entire movie, they have to start 15 minutes early. I glance at the clock and rush the kids along with their meal. I make a mental note of the things I need to buy at the grocery store while the girls are at their activity. We all hop in the car. The girls are dropped off, a little late. Oh well.
It’s seven o’clock. My son and I grab some groceries and then head home to place them in the refrigerator and freezer with just enough time to hop back in the car and get the girls from their activity. We bring an extra child home to her house, and then head back to ours.
It’s 8:30. I encourage the kids to get ready for bed quickly. My son is spent. He requires hand-over-hand dressing and teeth brushing tonight. I’m reminded to gather the children in my middle child’s room once they’re ready for bed. I open the scriptures. We read a chapter and discuss it along the way. We say a family prayer. I’m happy that we accomplished this gathering at the end of our day. I know that small things such as this are sustaining us at this terribly difficult time for our family.
It’s almost 9 o’clock. It’s time to tuck my kids into bed. I start with my middle child because, hey, I’m already in her room. I send my youngest to his room to choose a book. I hear him pick up his toys instead. I quickly decide it’s a battle not worth fighting. Kisses and hugs are administered. I shut my middle’s door and enter through another one. My son has a hard time settling down. I read to him from the chapter book he chose at the library. He sees his sisters reading them and wants to read one, too. I’m surprisingly engaged by the book, so I don’t mind that he falls asleep after two pages. I read another two before I stop. I close his bedroom door and open another one upstairs. My oldest is in bed reading. She’s now taller than I am. When did she become a young lady? Life has been difficult. Have I missed an entire chunk of it? I turn out her light and scratch her back. We talk about how another fun summer day has come and gone. We’re both satisfied with our efforts today.
I close her door and open another one. I wake my husband. I remind him that he needs to get up so that he can get some sleep tonight. They added another med to his regimen. His sleep is still off. Two months later, his sleep is still off. I get ready for bed. It’s 9:30. I ask him to head upstairs so I can go to bed. I know my son will be up at 6:45 tomorrow morning. I’m tired. I’m so very tired.
My husband has PTSD. I noticed a change in him when he returned from his deployment five years ago. Each year, it got progressively worse. This year, he finally decided to get some help. We’re still waiting for things to improve. So tomorrow, we’ll do another day all over again and hope that one day soon, improvement will come.
JG, I know I’m not alone in fervently wishing that tomorrow will be better for you all. And I’m hoping that you’re wrong about your time at your mother’s house; may it be only a few weeks, may it be wonderful, and may it be exactly the separation you need to rewrite your tomorrows. We are all pulling for you.
This is the part that moved me to tears: “My oldest is in bed reading. She’s now taller than I am. When did she become a young lady? Life has been difficult. Have I missed an entire chunk of it?” It happens, doesn’t it? Life sometimes gets so loud, we miss the beautiful little moments that whisper. I’m going to listen harder today for those quiet ones. Thank you, JG.