My sons thunder through the kitchen in a swirl of Saturday morning energy and excitement to tag along with my husband on an errand run. “Boys only” bellows my four-year-old. I smile. “OK, sweetie. You got it. Boys only.” A splitting image of my husband smiles back at me and then realizes his shoe is on the wrong foot. I always tell Rick that Luke’s his mini-me, except for the light skin. His skin is my skin – the only external physical evidence that the child came into this earth through my body, although plenty of me I know is on the inside.
In an uproar of chaos, the boys finish pulling on socks and shoes, then the jackets and gloves and hats. Daddy has already ducked out from the pandemonium of what is in fact, our life – this jumbled bunch of love and noise that always surprises us with something new and unexpected at every turn. Waiting in the car, he leaves me with the task of readying the boys, these two wild spirits who feed off one another, forever connected as siblings, as brothers and hopefully, if we guide them right, as friends.
I shuffle them out the door into the warm car. The window rolls down and music pours out. My husband leans over with his signature smile – a smile so grand that you can even hear him smiling over the phone. “Enjoy your morning,” he says, as I hear the boys excitedly chatter behind him, “Let’s go daddy!”
‘I Feel Empty’
The cold air whips under my pajama bottoms and slaps me with an icy kiss. I close the garage and run inside, just in time to watch the black Tahoe back out of the driveway. They there go – the three men in my life. Every time they leave – even for an hour – I feel empty. Why is that? Fear, I reason. I fear that somehow they won’t return. I redirect myself off this dark path and move forward to deciding what I’ll do with this beautiful gift of time. I have at least an hour and a half – may be even two if he takes them to Chick Fil-A. What to do with myself in this sudden rush of silence. The transition is jarring, just as it will be when they come plowing back through the door, squealing and screeching about what toy they got or new shoes they found. They go through shoes like a cow goes through fresh grass. I pause for a moment, grateful that we can afford to buy them new shoes any time they need them – and grateful that my husband is taking on this combustible task of finding two new pairs while chasing two man-children around Academy or Dick’s or where ever he decides to go. If any one can do it, he can.
With the house empty of noise, a long list of chores pops into my mind, if almost to fill the void that just left. Dishes need washing, laundry needs folding – and what’s the smell? Oh yeh, the litter box. Yet this is my time and I must do at least one thing for myself – is that too much to ask? So I bat the guilt away. But it will return, as it always does.
Sidestepping the explosion of toys in the living room, I leave the dishes, the laundry and the smelly litter box and grab my journal and a pencil instead. Wrapping myself in a blanket, I head to the guest room and plop onto the bed, bouncing knees first and then finally onto my rump. Crisscross applesauce. As I nestle into the bed and lean back against the pillows, Tyra the tabby – whose coat is a mishmash of caramel, marshmallow and chocolate, with a touch of leopard on her belly – effortlessly leaps on the bed and quickly makes a nest in my lap. After circling once or twice, she finds the sweet spot and curls into me. A split second later, her motor whirs to life in a smooth, cascading rhythm. Tyra has a soft, crackling purr that always soothes and calms me, much in the same way that my sons’ breathing does just after they drift to sleep. The warmth of her tiny body radiates through me. Until this moment, I don’t realize how tense I am. Letting my muscles go limp, I sink farther back into the pillows. I rest my journal beside me; the pencil rolls to the floor. I scoop Tyra into my arms and cradle her like I did my sons when they were babies.
I never take time to hold Tyra any more – to really embrace her. Life has me moving in all directions. I know I should be cleaning or writing … oh I should be writing more … or taking a shower or exercising, but I just want so much to stop and rest here, with Tyra in my arms. She never gets the attention she deserves …
Holding her there in the empty silence brings me an arresting sense of peace. I give into the urge to close my eyes, momentarily letting my intentions of writing my morning pages slip through the fingers of my mind. The soft rumbling coming from the animal in my arms transfixes my concentration. I tune into my own breath – the rise and fall of my chest. A second or two passes and my senses pick up the heater chugging along as warm air whooshes through the vent above me. The calling of a song bird spills in from the creek, momentarily moving my mind’s eye to the outside.
Tyra’s purring, the whooshing of air, the song bird and my breathing capture me into stillness. I strain to keep my concentration on these four sounds, but thoughts leak uncontrollably from the crevices of my mind. I try pinching off the flow, but my weak meditation skills sputter and cough and collapse against the power of my untrained intellect. Then I notice it. A sound is missing.
‘A Surge Of Panic’
Tyra has stopped purring. She lays deathly still in my arms. I look for the rise and fall of her rib cage. It does not rise. It stays fallen. A surge of panic rips through my chest. My heart beat quickens, a lump forms in my throat. Could this be it? After 15 years, could this be her moment of death? Or as I’ve recently come to believe, the moment in which Tyra will make her transition to the other side?
Outside, a lawn mower roars nearby, interrupting the unexpected peace that this sweet animal has inadvertently created for me. Tyra’s head pops up, all sleepy and in disarray, much in the same way I’m jarred awake from deep sleep when one of the boys crys out in the night. Her sharp instincts attuned, she senses no threat and lowers her head back down. Her green eyes close and her motor rumbles on once again. I relax, breathing a sigh of relief.
Grasping For Peace
Forty-five minutes later, my butt cheeks are numb and my legs asleep. Yet the pencil remains on the floor, my journal unopened and the cat in her cradle. I am awake and enjoying the silence, while clutching the only peace I’ve known in a very long while. Tingly legs, butt cheeks and all, I won’t dare disturb this moment, not with Tyra sleeping so soundly and so securely in my arms. Eventually, my bladder forces me to upset the stillness, as I gently place Tyra onto the bed and scurry to the toilet. As I sit there releasing my urine, Tyra appears around the door. She stretches and yawns. I offer my hand. She moves forward and connects to it, rubbing her cheek across the top of my knuckles She marks me as her human, as she has so many times before, reminding me of the importance I hold in her life.
About an hour or so later, my sons come rumbling through the door, filling the house once again with their organic energy, laughter and joy. Toting an armful of coats and bags, my husband drags in behind them, plops everything on the counter and sees that he’s come back to exactly what he left – his wife in her jammies, a sink full of dishes and a dining room table piled high with clothes.
“So what did you end up doing,” he said, more out of curiosity than of anything accusatory.
I sputter. I fumble.
“Well … uh.”
Think fast Stephanie. You’re still in your jammies – and glasses, for crying out loud! Tell him you were writing – tell him anything – just so he thinks you did something productive.
I try again, but I’ve never been good at lying to this man.
“All I really did was hold Tyra.”
And it felt good.
Before you go, check out this other post about Tyra: Back-Office Staff