Sometimes I will fail you.
Like this morning. Let’s face it, this was a shitty morning. You didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t want to go to work. I gave you a peach smoothie for breakfast but you only like berry. There wasn’t time to finish your satellite dish, or the lunar lander repair vehicle. Teeth brushing was a nightmare, and though I’d rather forget it, I smacked your hand and you cried. I apologized immediately, but I know how hollow apologies sound when repeated, and repeated again.
There are things I will apologize for over and over. I will mean it every time. You’ll have expectations for me, and I’ll fall short. I won’t mean to, but I will.
There’s lots of good reasons for this, and even some lame excuses. But in the end we are only both human beings, and I’ll do the best I can. To make you feel loved, safe, comfortable, to make you feel joy, to give you an understanding of your own worth, to know what you are capable of, the options, the choices, to think things through. If experience is any indicator, there will be times that my own personal things will get in the way of how I want you to feel loved. Like last week, for example, when I spent virtually all of my time consumed with a writing project. You would see me with my ‘deputer’ and ask when I’d be done working. You’d ask why I’m so tired, and the answer was that I’d been staying up all night working on the play.
While writing, I pushed away thoughts of school lunches and bedtimes, thoughts about whether you had clean socks or needed a bath. I did not follow through on plans about carrot sticks and waffles, and your dad was the go to parent for just about everything last week. Looking back, finally having finished a working draft for tomorrow’s rehearsal, I feel shitty for having failed you. But listen, I’m also proud of your dad, who saw me slip into the deep end and picked up everything, in process, right where I left it. Baths, dishes, dinners, drop-offs, pick-ups, they all happened without me, while I swam about in the abyss, hacking away at slippery ideas with the blunt force instrument of language.
I finally checked in on my email today. Email from my aunt about how my Gram should perhaps not live on her own anymore. She’s going on 92, my Gram, and she still worries about her weight, still worries about her pride being offended. She had to give up driving a while back, and it was a real struggle; she still feels betrayed by anyone who thought her keys should be confiscated. I’ve always known my Gram to live alone. There were dogs occasionally, but never another person. I stayed with her for a few weeks once in 2002. Dave and I were moving to New York, but I found a job before we found a place, so I stayed with Gram on Long Island and commuted. We ate dinners together, except for one, when I went out and drank a bottle of wine with friends. I didn’t tell Gram I wasn’t going to be home. When I got back the table was set, and she’d been waiting for me.
I want you to know that I still feel shitty about that. I think I’ll feel shitty about that forever. There will be things that will work their way into your consciousness and won’t let go. The more you try to pry them off, the more you will remember them.
I picture her in a home, in a room in that home, in the common area with other old people who either can’t or don’t want to live alone. There won’t be a spare bedroom, like there is at her home now, so we’ll have to stay somewhere else. We’ll go visit in the morning, leave in the evening. We’ll go to see her fully dressed, having showered and dressed elsewhere. And she’ll think how she used to see our bodies unclothed, how she washed us, dressed us, her daughters and me. She’ll think how we used to all get ready for bed, and then sit in our pajamas and watch tv, trying not to spill ice cream on the couch. Memories of us rousing her in her bed in the morning, of my son in his jammies wanting to go climb into Nona’s bed, of all of us sipping coffee before brushing teeth. All these intimacies will be over. We will leave as we will arrive, perhaps never taking off our shoes, or our scarves. Seeing Gram will be the big middle of the day, but the mornings and the evenings will be spent somewhere else. We’ll never settle in for the weekend at Gram’s, we’ll never again call her place home.