So I have this mantra…it’s not original…and I didn’t even start repeating it to myself…a dear dear friend reminds me of this little chant every time I am struggling with working and not being home with my girls…not being there when they get home from school…often traveling and not being there at all. Not having the time to spend doing homework…going to book fairs…field trips…not being the home room mom…or even a “present” mom…
This is why we work….this is why we show up everyday…We work so our families can live. We work to provide for them. Not because we have any big career aspirations…We aren’t huge career women…We truly work to provide good lives for our families.
And that’s enough. I mean, it really is. Being able to provide for your family is actually pretty huge, you know?
Then there’s a day like today…
I knew today was going to be hard. I got up as soon as the hubby left for work, read my devotionals, turned the lights back off and let the tears fall. I needed to get them all out because I could not break down when I got there. I had to be strong. Professional. Caring. Empathetic. But not emotional.
I pulled myself together. Got the girls up and ready, off to school. Got myself ready and made the trip with a co-worker. Stopped and got a gift basket, signed a card from the office and walked across what seemed like an endless parking lot. Up an elevator, down hallways…checked to make sure we had the room number right and went in.
He was there, laying in the hospital bed, not looking sick at all. Looking just like he had the last time he’d been in the office. He was there with his wife, son, mother, brother…Hooked up to so many bags of medicine…
We talked…small talk…bigger talk…what the doctors were saying…what they weren’t saying…the events of the last few days.
Then the other reason for the visit…my being there…to talk about what would happen next…worse case scenario you might say…If this, then this…paperwork…how long…insurance…what if he can’t come back to work in 12 weeks…what if he can’t drive…what if he can’t come back to work…ever…
I answered all their questions, without crying, without breaking down. This room was not mine to break down in. He is my friend, my co-worker…I am sad, concerned, heartbroken for them both. I cannot fathom their heart break.
Until she speaks it. Until she says, it’s 27 years this year…I’m not ready to give him up.
Until we move on and start talking about “normal” things…life, kids…and he speaks it…I will never see my grandkids.
I feel their hope, their resolve, falter for a moment. And then it’s back. Her strength, his nonchalant attitude that it’s all going to be nothing.
We stay for awhile, talk about everything…nothing…promise to come back soon. His wife comes over to me…speaks quietly…words she won’t say out loud right now. We hug, strangers until today, now connected.
We leave the room as the family files back in. Walk out of the unit, down the hallways, to the elevator. The parking lot seems even bigger. Why is the sun shining? Doesn’t it know? Steps are slower. There are no words. There can’t be words. Not yet. I have to keep it together still.
We have a quiet lunch, stop by the office to take care of some business, then we’re on the road again. I close my eyes, grateful to not be driving. More grateful to not have to talk.
I’m home, talking with the husband, the girls…it’s a normal afternoon…finally, I get the reprieve I’ve been waiting for, our oldest is ready for me to come pick her up. I get in the car, start driving, then, finally, allow the silent tears to come.
I reflect on the words I couldn’t absorb earlier…the catch in her voice that sounded foreign mixed among her words of hope and strength. The shadows of doubt that flashed across his face, meant to be too brief for anyone to see.
I only have a few moments and then she’s walking out to me. If I learned anything today, I learned to live in these moments, so I put away my day to focus on her. Listen to her. Be present with her.
Later, we went out to eat because I just couldn’t say no. And when the girls poured soy sauce in my water – and I drank it – and they were all smiles while they said “April Fools!”, I didn’t get mad. I laughed. I enjoyed that moment. I memorized their smiles and the light in their beautiful brown eyes.
I took them to Hallmark and we shopped, longer than we should have, and bought things we didn’t need. But they each got something that meant something to them. Tori got a class of 2014 cup…then took the epic picture at the top of this post.
Alex got gifts for a friend and asked for nothing for herself.
Savannah got a stuffed animal that she is currently snuggled up to in bed.
I got a gift for someone who loves SJP as much as I do.
There was not a moment today I had to repeat my mantra.
Today, I was thankful for the job I have, not just because it enables me to provide for my family, but because I was able to be there for a co-worker…a friend…and his family…To really be there for them in a way that really mattered.
Today was hard. Tomorrow may be harder. But I have new words to repeat…
I go to work every day because I can make a difference. Sometimes in small ways, sometimes, like today, in bigger ways. And that matters.