Yesterday I felt pulled in two directions. I’ve talked to other artist parents about this, about this pull, and yesterday, not for the first time, I felt it. I’d had a super productive day planned. Work at my job-type-job in the morning, then drop off my brand new laptop for repair (I think I got a lemon), then go write for the afternoon. Some grad school lady friends of mine occasionally get this writing group on, where someone books a studio space, and we all meet up and write quietly for a few hours. It’s nice, and quiet, and comrade-like. I was really looking forward to it. I’m working on a new play and I wanted to find act 2.
On the eve of yesterday, at bedtime, C and I were having story-ville, but he didn’t want to read. I asked if he wanted songs, but he didn’t. I took his temp; it was 103. Now 103 is not 104, and 104 is where I panic, but it’s damn near enough to cause concern.
I kept close watch on him all night, and by morning the fever had reduced a few degrees, but he was still lethargic. I looked at the map of my productive day, to see how it could be navigated, given this new detour. I called out of work to stay home with him. I knew Dave would be home after lunch, and figured I’d hand C off to his dad, and pick up the second half of my productive day.
But I couldn’t do it. We had lunch together, and the fever was climbing again. He said he wanted a story, and a snuggle, and a rest. I was ready to head out the door, but I took off my boots and snuggled him. I read him from a poetry book by Milne that a friend had recently sent. We got to page 38, and his eyes closed. I thought, this is my chance! I’ll get up, I thought, get my boots back on and head out. I’d missed work, and the laptop drop-off, but I could still get to the studio. Sleeping C rolled over, reaching out for my arm, and held on. The rational thing was to move his sleeping hand, to get up, to go, to at least go sit in the kitchen with my backup laptop and knock out a few pages.
But I couldn’t do it. The hand on my arm stopped me. While my mind told me to get up and get started, my heart commanded my body to snuggle in closer, told me in no uncertain terms that to snuggle my baby is a privilege that won’t stay around forever. One thing being an older parent has made clear is that life doesn’t last. Mortality is real. I wonder if I’ll be around to see my grandchildren. If C waits to have kids until he’s as old as his father and I were when we had him, I’ll be 70 when my grandchild is born. Living to 70 is by no means outside of the realm of longevity possibility; my mom’s parents are in pretty fantastic shape, both in their 90’s, and my dad’s mom, too, is vibrant in her late 80’s. But, I tell myself, good genes are no guarantee.
I snuggled my baby, who is almost 4, and reminds me daily that he’s not my baby any more. I snuggled him and held his hand. I watched the sun sparkle on the snow through the curtained window. I pulled the covers closer around us. I thought about getting my backup laptop, and writing while he slept next to me, I thought about how small he was when he was small, how big he’ll be when he grows big. I thought about how much he dreams, how he’ll feel about life, and meaning. I thought about how long I’ve been searching, personally, through art, my own and that of others, through reading philosophy, through prayer (oh how I falter on my knees, how the floor chafes me and I fight the urge to stand and stride), to discern the meaning of things. For a while I was certain that there was no meaning, that life is void, but certainty chafes as much as the hard floor.
As I lay with my son, both of us dreaming in the afternoon light, it seemed plain to me that the gift of life is love, and that love does not equal joy, or satisfaction, or happiness. Love is not a means to something else, it is not a pathway that we may walk down to achieve an end. Hard to give, harder to receive, love is meaning itself.
We slept until we were rested. And while still I’m dissatisfied with my decision to rest instead of work, I think it’s a decision I will make again, if the circumstances are the same.