Saturday, November 10, 2007

"That Da-Da."

My husband has been away a lot in the past few weeks. He works with schools around the state that have been identified as needing improvement based on their students' testing scores. Many days he drives to these schools and back in a day, but has also been away some overnights because some of his schools are up north in The County, Aroostook County that is, also known as God's Country, the land of potatoes, or what I quietly think of as a Hell of a Long Way From Home. These trips and travels have coincided with Noah getting his first serious cold. I have to say first that he's never been sick in 15 months, so I know that we have been doing well overall, but this one was a doozie for his first. Lots of flowing green goo, a rumbling growly cough, and several long nights with his wide open fish mouth glommed onto my breast. Two days after he got sick, I did too, which made all of the above even more trying and pitiful. The first marathon-length day when the pressure in my head made me wonder if my sinuses would in fact blow up in a messy green and red display was Matthew's first day away on one of these overnights in Aroostook County.

I lowered my expectations drastically for the day and went into keeping-Noah-alive-while-I-try-to-remain-in-a-prone-position mode. If we happened to have any fun too, well, that would just be gravy. The first day passed peacefully, though I wondered at nightfall if I was wearing the skin off my knuckles from all the handwashing I was doing. Noah, bless his heart, remained his cheerful self for the most part, so I took his lead and did not descend into the mild despair and self-loathing which often accompanies me being sick. We stacked blocks, read books, and rolled matchbox cars on every inch of the furniture, the wood floors, our bodies, and the cat. When Matthew called in that night after Noah went to bed, I was glad to report that we'd gotten through the day just fine, although I felt terrible.

The next day, I woke with complete laryngitis. This changed the options for the day considerably. I could not read books to Noah, could not sing him to sleep at naptime or bedtime, could not ask him to do anything, and could not answer his questions - "Dat? Dat? Dat? HaDaaaaaat? (Translation: What's that?)." The last time I had laryngitis was my wedding day. My wedding week, actually. I wondered then, as I did now, what kind of symbolic meaning it had that my voice was gone. Was it to keep me from marrying my soon-to-be husband? To literally make it impossible for me to speak the vows? I thought then it was to help me step back and let the day happen without too much of the usual verbal direction on my part. To just let the joy come to me. Hopefully I won't ruefully look back on this in 10 years as an angry, divorced woman cursing the day I met my dear husband in the first place and wishing I had kept my mouth shut instead of rasping out an "I do." The only reason I can write that mean old sentence at all is that this was the spirit I was in on that second day of my cold - I had let's say a smidgen of resentment that I was home taking care of our little sick baby while I was sick myself with no one to take care of Me.

So it was laryngitis again. I whispered my way through the day with Noah, and since he was still his usual cheerful self, we again made it easily through the day. The real reason this is worth writing down is that I suddenly noticed that the more hours that went by when I didn't have to listen to myself talk, the happier I became. By nightfall I realized how incredibly sick of listening to myself talk I was. Listening to decision after decision after decision, talking both sides of the conversation with Noah and sometimes Matthew, communicating or overcommunicating with everyone in my life. The more hours that passed with me moving silently through the house, cuddling and playing with Noah without describing outloud what we were doing every second, the more I thought I might have to start living like this all the time.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a word-lover. I love to write of course, and I also love to talk. I love to find the best words to match the intention, to use words to find clarity, to lift an idea even higher by the way it's expressed. I'm a Leo as I think I've mentioned in this blog before, though a Leo perhaps lacking some confidence, so rather than just liking to hear myself talk, I like to be pleasantly surprised when other people are interested in hearing me talk. And while Noah is a captive audience, and is certainly sponging up lots of what I say, it's not scintillating around here in the word department because he knows less than ten syllables. And let's face it, conversation with oneself and a 15-month-old can only take you so far.

The daylong hiatus from speaking turned into two, and three, before my voice returned to more than a forced squeak. My husband came home that Friday night, and was exhausted and needed taking care of. I threw a drop more resentment down the well, promised myself I'd pump it out later, and made fresh biscuits for dinner.

Now it's almost a week later, another Saturday when we've had to make the difficult transition from it being the two of us to my husband and stepson being around the house too. I still have a bit of a whisky-voice, and cannot sing to Noah without sounding like a teenaged boy all gutteral than suddenly choir-worthy, but fortunately or unfortunately I'm back to talking a lot most of the time. I have to say, I miss the peace and quiet. Not that that has kept me from starting all kinds of uncomfortable conversations with everyone in the house, and feeling a bit like I have three children here instead of one. Terrible thoughts and feelings, and Matthew does not deserve this. His presence has shaped so much that is good in my life.

While Noah napped upstairs moments ago, Matthew and Colby raked leaves together in the backyard, and I've had this time to write, things have crept into balance again. For the afternoon that is left I want to quietly offer this, to try to suck up some of the water in that well: I'd like to whisper more, or show instead of tell, or sometimes just let more things go out into the silence without comment or interpretation on my part. Sometimes my words crowd things out, besides my own sanity, and these long recent days I have missed my husband so much, thinking at times that it's all up to me. As Noah simply and importantly reminded me this morning when he pointed to Matthew and spoke his first sentence, "That Da-Da. That Da-Da."

Giving so much to our kids doesn't leave a lot left over for each other, or for ourselves. But we are still a team, even though neither of us feel much like starters.