I love to watch her when she’s sleeping. It’s kind of a cliché, I know, but she looks positively angelic in slumber.
Before I turn out the light I linger at the doorway for a few minutes. Her arms are flung over her head, one hand stuffed under the pillow. Her hair, still a bit damp from her bath, curls around her head in little ringlets. The baby lotion I used on her fills the room with a sweet scent that always makes me feel warm and contented.
The glimpses of heaven I treasure in this quiet time are often in direct contrast with the rest of the day. When the fierce independence typical of her age clashes with what I deem best for her, she can be anything but cherubic. And as for the scent--well, I hesitate to admit this--but even though I couldn‘t begin to count the number of diapers I‘ve changed, there are still times when only a supreme act of will keeps me from gagging. So it’s no wonder, really, that the sweetness of baby lotion seems to me as heaven-sent as her angelic expression.
“Is she asleep?” My husband sets his paper down when I return to the living room a few minutes later.
“Mm-hmm. I’ll check on her again in a little while. I don’t like the cold she picked up when I took her to the day care center last week. It doesn‘t seem like much right now other than a little stuffiness. But I‘m keeping a close watch on it and I‘ll take her in to the doctor if it seems like it‘s developing into more.”
He nods and smiles--using the expression he seems to think is supportive, but that comes across a bit condescending. “You wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t worry.”
“I suppose you’re right. You know, it’s funny. A lot of people think maternal hyper-vigilance is silly. But it’s just the way it is.“
Apparently oblivious to any hint my statement might apply to him, he changes the subject. “What did she do that was funny today?”
I draw my feet up beside me in the chair and lean back to review the day.
“Oh! You know how she just loved peaches last week? Well today I cut up a peach and put it on her plate with her lunch and you should have seen the face she made when she tried a piece. It was all I could do not to laugh. But you know how she gets mad any more when you laugh...unless it’s something she’s laughing at, too. Anyway, I pretended I didn’t see it. Then she pushed the rest of the pieces around her plate trying to hide them behind the other food.”
He chuckles, but it’s a chuckle in isolation. It sounds right, but his mouth is the only thing that moves; the change in expression doesn’t reach his eyes.
“Did you go out anywhere?”
“Yeah. I had to go to the grocery store. That’s always fun. I try to get her to hold on to the cart when we’re going through the store so she won’t wander off, but you know how that goes. Sometimes she cooperates and sometimes she doesn’t. Well, today was a ’doesn’t’. She absolutely refused to hold on to the cart--or my hand. She threw quite a fit about it. People kept looking at us. I wanted to just leave right then and there, but there were some things I had to get. So I just tried to ignore the outburst, bought what I needed and got out as quick as I could.”
“Well, that sort of thing is to be expected, I guess.”
“I guess...” Tears well up and threaten to spill over. This time my husband comes over, kneels down by my chair and encircles me in his arms.
I love the moments when he’s genuinely supportive. They give me an even more contented feeling then the smell of baby lotion.
“I know it’s hard. But just try to keep in mind that these days won’t last forever.”
I nod, unable to speak for a moment. Several deep, shaky breaths later the words tumble out in a rush. “I know that. And I really do try to keep it in mind. Each day is so precious, I know I won’t ever get these days with her again. I do treasure them. Yet at the same time it can be so hard sometimes just getting from morning to night. A lot of times commitment and a lot of prayer are the only things that get me through.”
He brushes the hair back from my forehead. “Sometimes that’s all you can do. That and try to focus on the peaches--not the meltdowns.”
Now it’s my turn to nod and smile. Only I’m pretty sure my smile reaches my eyes.
He stands and holds out his hand. “Let’s go check on her.”
We tiptoe into her room, now illuminated only by the warm, golden hue of the nightlight. I take a deep breath--calmed, once again, by the heavenly parallels. I lean down and kiss her soft cheek.
This is outstanding. I knew a twist was coming but you surprised me anyway. This is such a beautiful story of love. Part of me thinks it might be rare but that may be because I've seen to many elderly people left alone in the hospital or nursing home. Again I really enjoyed this piece
Shelley! This is wonderfully written. And I too, had to go back and re-read it again, after reading the twist at the end. You had me totally fooled. I thought you were writing about a baby. But when re-reading it, knowing it was an older woman, it all fit! Excellent job of bringing us into the MC's thoughts and frustrations. Very Well Done!
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