My best friend’s neighbor is dying. By the time you read this, likely, he’ll be gone. This boy is only twelve years old. Twelve. His loss is such a profound injustice to his family and friends and the natural order of things. My heart breaks each and every time I think of him and his parents. I have never met this boy or his family, but losing a child is a parents’ very worst nightmare and this is now their reality.
My own reality, as of late, has been so much more mundane. We have been living through the addition of a master suite. Our house is considered homey/cozy/really small and was a two-bed one-bath home to our family of four and two dogs. Soon, our kids will have their own room, the dogs will have a safe haven from the kids, and the mad scramble for one toilet, is, thankfully, (sort of) over.
We decided to stick it out and brave through the construction, naively thinking it can’t be that bad. It can. Every day I pack up the kids and the dogs and a pack n play and snacks and extra clothing and we move out for the day. We come back home just in time to unpack everyone, make dinner, have bath time, stories, bed, then make dinner for me and my husband. The other day I couldn’t even remember the last time I showered. I knew I had (I hope I had) but couldn’t pinpoint exactly when.
Our house is covered in layers of dust and debris. The refrigerator is empty, my toddler has decided now is the time to start potty training, so pee, all the time and everywhere, is part of my daily repertoire. The contents of various rooms and closets are strewn all over the house. Literally there is stuff everywhere in places they don’t belong, stacked high and wide. My bathroom is mildly disgusting, bills may or not be getting paid and lunches are mostly being made although I can’t say I haven’t forgotten once or twice. No one is sleeping well and the kids have taken to singing, “shake your booty! Shake your booty!” until almost 9 o’clock (they are 2 and 4.5). On another night recently at about 1am, every one of us simultaneously screamed and/or cried.
I am feeling unkempt and discombobulated and deficient in every way; trying to find and order tiles and a toilet and flooring and making decisions as to where an outlet should lie and wipe snotty noses and remember to eat and clean up pee and get the kids to all the places they need to go and be a good wife and mother and have completely lost what it means to be good to me. And all the while, in all the chaos and self-pity a little boy is dying just a few miles away.
I think of him and hold my healthy kids closer and breath a little deeper at how fortunate we are and my first-world problems seem… absurd. But then again, I am still feeling lost and depressed and unable to enjoy this all-for-the-greater-good madness. And so nearby, a small life is about to let go and a whole tribe of people are forced to say goodbye. I am feeling displaced emotionally and physically and we chose this and it is almost over and life will be better for us. This other family doesn’t have it as good. They are saying goodbye to the life we continue to build. So, I’m left feeling shameful about feeling the way I do in the face of such loss which just creates more anxiety spilling over into my daily motions that already feel extra heavy and just hard.
Friends say my feelings are reasonable and valid. But is that all a copout? Is it really “all relative” like friends say? I don’t know. No, we aren’t facing death but parenting through such chaos is uncomfortable and I’m losing elasticity in my patience. And every moment I think of that little boy I try and find clarity and perspective underneath all this dust. And every time I think of his mother, I wish I had a moral to this story for her. A neat, wrapped up, it’ll all be better ending, but I don’t. And maybe that’s the moral – nothing is neat. Not birth, not life, not death, and definitely not my mundane day to day.
In Memoriam Christopher Joseph Wilke
5/25/01 – 3/20/14