I turn my kindle page, thinking, “just a few more,” even though the baby has already passed out in my arms and is resting there heavy. This is some of the best reading time of my day, and the truth is I love lingering here in silence while he breathes in, out, steady, mouth slightly open, hands curled gently around my fingers. For a few minutes, it’s like communion. It’s as close to church as I get these days.
Today I’m reading Lauren Winner’s Still (yes I’m late to the party as usual), and I’ve just gotten to the chapter where she writes about her dead mother, who she says she doesn’t miss most of the time. A friend asks her what she would miss if she missed something.
Then, my eyes meet this paragraph:
“I would miss her voice. I do miss her voice; it hovers at the edges of my amygdalae like a dream I can’t quite remember, like a poem whose meter I can recall but not the words. I would miss asking for all the advice she died too early to give.”
-Lauren Winner, Still
I suck a quick breath in like I’ve been socked in the gut; my hand feels weak and I nearly drop the book. And I find myself weeping.
Because those are my words, that is my mind and my heart and I didn’t know how to say it until now. When he first died, I was terrified of forgetting my dad. Though I know now I won’t, little details like his voice and how he looked at me have faded a little, like a Polaroid. I didn’t know to pay closer attention, and then he was gone. Did I ever really try to read his eyes?
I suppose this is what good art does; we recognize ourselves and we’re pulled closer to something more vibrant, more true. Today, the truth was a pocket of grief I didn’t realize was there, ripped open by words from someone with a completely different experience, and yet the same.
I’m shaking with sobs now, trying to get it under control because the baby is sleeping and he is shaking right along with me. I remember how I just commented that my heart feels healed but will never feel the same, and yet here I am. I think there must be parts that will never completely heal. In that thought I find some solace.
I take my glasses off and wipe the tears off my cheeks, sweep the mascara from under my eyes, take in one last steadying breath, and the soundtrack in the room is breathing again — mine, his. I am all there. The truth has brought me more fully into this moment and she says, Pay attention. I know, I just know I’ll blink and he won’t be falling asleep to the rhythm of my breathing anymore, he’ll be too big for my lap, he’ll finally give up bottles and naps altogether.
Here now, I feel the baby’s weight on me, I memorize his face again, I study him. I look down to his hands, see the blue face paint that is caked under his pinky fingernail, smooth his fingers over mine again. And give myself permission to enjoy it, to revel in the silence, to admire my baby and pray Thank you thank you thank you.