There’s Sick, and then there’s Homesick

When I was somewhere around 19 years old, I was the assistant manager of a wallpaper store. Wallpaper 4 Less, it was called, and I was proud of my title of “manager,” even if preceded by the word “assistant.” Truth be told, there were only two of us: the manager and me, so really, it wasn’t so impressive after all.

As assistant manager, I learned how to use a ten-key, an old school credit card machine, take inventory, deal with finicky customers, and certainly more about wallpaper than I ever thought I’d know. And I like wallpaper to a certain extent. I like paint better, but wallpaper really isn’t as bad as HGTV may tell you.

In fact, I’m wondering if I should once again make wallpaper my go-to cosmetic upgrade, and forever shun paint and it’s lustrous beauty and wide array of possible colors.

Once again, we are painting. I wrote a post back in the summer about our Berkeley painting adventures as we prepared to sell our house. Now here we are, working in reverse and making the home we just bought truly ours. Three to four guys have been here every day this week (and will be here tomorrow as well) to paint most of our main level as well as Rachel’s room.

I planned it perfectly.

Andy and Rachel would be out of town, and Aaron would go to preschool every day but Monday. That way we could avoid the chaos of our last painting experience. I made a DMV appointment and scheduled a haircut, which would get me out of the way, too. The rest of the time I would sit nice and quiet in my lovely, underused office working on interviews and writing a new pitch I have high hopes for.

Yeah, right. Best laid plans and all that jazz.

Rachel and Andy left Friday. It was bliss. Quiet, tidy, calm. Aaron ate like a gentleman and behaved nicely. All was going according to plan. For about 24 hours, anyway.

Saturday afternoon the projectile vomiting began, and it didn’t end until Wednesday. No fever or other symptoms, just throwing up. Lots and lots of it. By Monday, the day the painting began, the doctor’s office had called twice to urge me to take Aaron to the ER.

“Let him sleep for about two hours, then take him in.”

One hour and 50 minutes passed and the office called back: “Have you left yet?”

I hadn’t, because it hadn’t been two hours.

“Right,” she said. “Ten more minutes then go. But try water first, just in case. 5mls.”

Sick baby

Sick baby

So while Aaron sat in my arms, weak and lethargic, I syringed 3mls into the corner of his mouth. He gulped greedily and it stayed down. I tried 5mls more. It stayed down. This wasn’t the end of his sickness—not by a long shot—but we were out of the ER woods.

Then… I got sick. And when I say sick, I mean sick. So sick, in fact, that Andy (who was still in California) called my mom in Arkansas, and asked if she could come.

Of course,” she said.

Sixteen hours later she arrived to find me delirious and weak, with Aaron not faring much better.

And still, the men painted.

From 8am to 6pm every day, they painted. Amid delirium, vomit, crying, threatened ER trips in ice storms, and one very opinionated retired general contractor who had come to stay a while, they painted.

Still today, they paint.

And let me tell you, it looks great.

For a while, my mom and I mostly talked paint colors, but as time passed and I began to emerge from my virus-induced near death, Nana asked an essential question: “Isn’t there anyone here you could call? Not that I mind coming, but… isn’t there anyone?”

Well, no.

We’ve lived in this town since October. We’ve had folks over, and are having more next week. We know our neighbors, and some even came to Rachel’s birthday party. But who do you call for Pedialyte and Gatorade during an ice storm? When you desperately need help scrubbing the carpet before it stains and forever stinks? When your baby has gotten sick over and over again for days, but you yourself are too sick to bathe him, because who knows if you’ll pass out while he’s in the water?

That’s just a lot to ask.

“You know,” my mom said thoughtfully, “I tend to avoid the stay-at-home moms in my neighborhood.” She went on to explain, “I guess I’m afraid they’ll want to stop by and have coffee and talk, and I just don’t have time.”

“Mom,” I stared hard. “They are stay-at-home moms. THEY don’t have time.”

“True. But I’m also afraid they’ll ask me to babysit.” (in case it isn’t clear at this point, my mom is a very, very good babysitter.)

“I could see that.”

(But note: she flew from Arkansas to Maryland for a less-than-48-hour “visit” with two very sick people).

I know what she means. Sometimes I won’t even go check my mail because I’m scared I might get caught in a conversation that I’m “too busy” for. Yet… when that happens, it’s often quite enjoyable and even makes my day better. And sometimes, that little bit of conversation is just what my soul needs.

Andy and Rachel returned home last night. Andy brought me fries from my favorite California-only gourmet burger place (Barney’s, the home of our first date), and Rachel brought me lots of handmade presents and excited chatter. She and Nana stayed up past midnight doing only God knows what, and today Nana woke at 4am to fly back home, where she will spend the next few days babysitting for my sister and brother-in-law while they travel to Oklahoma for work.

After we finally shuttled everyone to their rooms for the night, I lay in bed, struggling against hunger and memories, unable to fall asleep: I miss Barney’s. I miss my in-laws so very much. The Facebook and texted pictures Andy sent this last week from their kitchen, from the Lawrence Hall whale, from Gordo’s, ran through my head, along with memories of our home, especially the Bay view we had from our deck.IMG_1763

I spent every moment possible on that deck, soaking up warm January sun and cold July fog, looking at the Oakland cranes to the left, San Francisco skyscapers to the right, and the Giants stadium in the middle. Come April (and maybe even October), I will so miss seeing their fireworks cut through night fog, not quite bright and brilliant, but beautiful. So beautiful.

I thought of these things and of my mom flying here to care for us. Of how much we love our new incredibly spacious and comfy home. I thought of my mom’s words: “isn’t there anyone here you could call?”

And just like that, I became officially homesick.

But I’ll keep waiting and watching and hoping and praying and writing of all these things in an up again/down again bloggy way, and someday it will all click perfectly into place. I know it will.

As for the paint, Andy and Rachel were both surprised and happy, because it really does look lovely. But I still wonder if next time maybe I shouldn’t try wallpaper.

Feeling better

Feeling better

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In These Middle Years

The bright and shiny of all the things we wanted – the kids, the dog, the house, the minivan – are dulled by fatigue. By being up for three hours by 8am and and still having read only one email, one verse. By sharing 2.5 cups of coffee with a spoon-wielding princess. By being an introvert who is accompanied by two littles in the bathroom, while a big-little knocks on the door.

We have comforts. We bought a new mattress to make us less tired. It’s fancy, and big, and came with a remote that we share. It lights the room blue at 2am when we wake, hearts pounding, thinking surely we’re supposed to be doing something, anything, other than resting tired bones. Even with a downstairs Nana, a few-blocks-away Gamma, our exhaustion defeats us.

Yesterday I met a woman with one little, another on the way. She has comforts, too. I can tell this by where her house is, where she works, what she wears. I can tell, too, that her comforts don’t make her bright things shiny. She has no Nana downstairs, no Gamma three blocks away. Just a new home, a new town, a long-distance family, and a few short months to go before she’s a mother of two. I want to sit with her, write a list of her needs. Share them with my too-tired mama friends and envelope her with love. But I know that if I were her, and I have been, I would say no. Would go it alone, overwhemed and longing. Determined to make do.

“Mom,” I say, “I am just so tired.”

I know.”

She tells me about her thirties, how every bone ached with exhaustion. How she hallucinated after three days without sleep when my sister was in the hospital. “I remember,” she says, “when we would go to the farm to visit grandpa and I was so tired. I thought I’d never feel rested again.” Even decades after the fact, I can hear the fatigue in her voice.

She had comforts, too, but still her bright things dulled in those middle years, when all we have are edges, stretched thin and yawning into nothing. Dangling our feet over empty, hanging heavy and threatening to burst.

And in this chasm, I read, in a moment almost ignored:

He stretches out the north over empty space;
He hangs the earth on nothing.
He wraps up water in his clouds.
They are heavy, but they don’t burst.
He covers the face of the full moon.
He spreads his clouds over it.
[ ]
Those are only on the edges of what he does.
They are only the soft whispers that we hear from him.
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?
(Job 26:7-9, 14)

Today, when I–

play 7am Frisbee with a princess and a troll;

rock and walk a 21-pound baby for over an hour;

am a fairy godmother in 2-inch heels and ankle socks;

cook things from a box in the oven and pretend they are real;

celebrate new life almost here,

I will dance on the edges, lean in for the whispers, find comfort in the thunder.

Pray other mamas whose feet dangle, alone, do the same.