Listen, I know it’s overdone to say it, but here it is: time flies. The problem with the flight analogy, though, is that flying conjures up images of hollow bones and air and freedom, and the time I’m talking about is heavy and burdened around my feet like concrete shoes. It’s been thick and heavy. And somehow, still, so fast. I don’t understand it.
Yesterday was Ulysses’ 9 month ‘birthday’, so he’s three quarters of a whole year into this whole oxygen-breathing existence. How? I could be everymother and cluck about where does the time go? Or I could just empty my pockets in front of you and pile up all the heartbreak and diagnoses and surgery and worry and fright and isolation. I know exactly where it’s all gone, I’ve watched every grain of it tick through my hands, and I’ve furiously scraped it all back together and held onto it as best as I could. But I’m still confused. In attempting to preserve my sanity and my family’s integrity, I’ve existed almost solely in each tiny moment. It might be an admirable philosophy to Be Here Now, be present, but do you know what happens when you’re only living for right now? You miss looking ahead. And the future surprises you when it comes.
Today Ulysses had an MRI to give our orthopedic surgeon a little better look at his right knee. When it’s time for his leg surgeries, soon, today’s procedure will be the deciding factor in whether or not he might have a functional knee. Science is amazing but mechanical knees do not compare to biological ones. It’s a small chance, we know, that there is any ossified tibia at all from which to create a usable joint, but I’m grateful that the surgeon is meticulous enough to want to be absolutely sure. It’s kind of a big deal, cutting off a baby’s lower legs. Nobody takes this thing lightly. Do not take the ease at which I say things like ‘amputation’ to imply ease at dealing with heavy stuff. Looking easy and being easy are not the same thing. This is all so hard.
It’s hard to have a wee sprite of a baby who is still exclusively breastfed, whose forays into solid foods have been disinterested sporadic tastes of avocado and banana, and hold him, crying, when the only comfort he wants is to nurse. I’m not the first mother who has had to deny that primal comfort to her baby, and Ulysses isn’t the only baby who has had to endure such confusing experiences, but it’s still hard. It’s hard for me and it’s hard for anyone else who has done it. It’s hard to leave your drugged out baby on a gurney and walk away to get lunch because there’s nothing you can do there and you can’t be in the MRI room with him, anyway.
Last week, and this isn’t related to anything at all, I had to drive the daughter to an appointment in the city. It was a dull and routine appointment, but it still required a forty-five minute drive and a couple of nights of preliminary anxiety. I have this dread now, see, when I have to do any dumb new thing out of the house. I don’t want to have a confrontation with any knuckleheads and, yet, the world is full of knuckleheads so I dread the inevitable, while always hoping I can evade it somehow. So, just the errand was making me anxious. And then we got in the car, on one of those super hot days we had last week, and the air conditioning didn’t work. And I swear, I felt like the universe hated me. I felt, in that moment, like nothing was right. Like nothing would ever be right. Like I was being squashed under the vibram sole of God’s well-worn hiking boot. Do you ever feel like that? I even posted a picture on instagram, and lamented my car trouble inspired existential crisis. But it was so much more than that. It was everything, and in that moment, it was too much. It was a fragile morning.
And, then, a few hours later, we were on the return drive home. The Baby was crying, so tired in the backseat and sweaty, from no air conditioning, and I was exhausted and the kids were all hot and cranky and I felt a million miles away from anything positive or possible. I felt immeasurably low and hopeless. And, I swear this really happened, I turned on the radio -loudly!- in a desperate effort to distract the baby from crying and do you know what was playing? Tubthumping. And the kids and I started singing it, at the top of our lungs, because the windows were down and we had to scream over the highway wind tunnel, and the baby immediately quieted and I almost cried because I wanted to laugh because there is nothing more bright and true than shouting along with my kids: I get knocked down, but I get up again, You’re never gonna keep me down. I get knocked down, but I get up again, You’re never gonna keep me down. It was ridiculous and silly and, yet, almost sacred. I don’t care if the 90s called and want their pop music back and I don’t care if other people handle things without resorting to violently cranking up the radio to drown out the baby’s piteous, overtired cries. It was a victory.
All week I’ve been recalling that moment, like taking a tincture to make me stronger for stuff still yet to come: the big stuff I know about and the little sneaky everyday stuff that will continue to surprise me. I guess maybe I’ve been in a more-down-than-up cycle this year. But I keep getting back up.
(we hang out most evenings in the shady front yard. the baby gives the grass such careful attention and focus, worthy of something miraculous. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein)