Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To Dutch: an account of your parting …

I woke up with a start to the sound of Audrey crying. It was just after 3 am and, when I stumbled into her room, you were there already, holding her in your arms. "A bad dream," you told me.

She asked if she could snuggle in ‘Mommy’s bed’ and, knowing it would soon be empty, – you had an early flight to catch – I consented and we ambled back like two lost kittens, and huddled close together on your side.

“What’s that, Mom?” Audrey asked. She was pointing to the stationary green light attached to the smoke alarm, the only visible thing in the utter darkness.

“It’s to protect us in case of fire.”

Oh," she said. "May I touch it?”

“No,” I mumbled, “it’s too high.”

Oh. Can you touch it?”

I explained that only Daddy was tall enough to touch it.

She proceeded with a litany of declarations: “You can’t touch it. And I can’t touch it. And baby sister can’t touch it. And Katy Kat can’t touch it. And –

“Audrey,” your voice broke in. You stood in the open doorway, with – I recognized vaguely - your hat on backwards, in your red shirt, your arms at your sides. You seemed to fill the empty space completely, making everything – the bed, the house, even the street outside - feel weightier and more substantial.

“No more talking,” you went on firmly. “If you talk I’m going to put you back in your bed and you won’t be able to snuggle with Mommy anymore, okay?”

“O-kay, Dad.”

Silence followed and I knew the space you occupied had emptied. The room felt suddenly cold; the house, hollow. If a gust of wind had come at that moment I believe it would have blown us clean off of our foundation. “Mommy,” whispered Audrey. Her voice sounded tinny. “I not talking, Mom… I not talking, okay?”

“Good girl,” I said. “No more talking just like Daddy said. It’s nigh-nigh time.”

An earnest rumble emanated from the ground floor below.

“What’s that, Mom? What’s that noise?”

“It’s the garage door,” I sighed. “Daddy’s leaving.”

Those two words: ‘Daddy’ and ‘leaving’ – had never hit me with such a pang of melancholy, as though “the last lights off the black west went…” An apt description. For that is what the moment of your parting was like: the instant when the last sliver of sunlight falls below the horizon, blanketing everything in darkness.

I heard you back the car slowly out of the garage. The engine whined and grunted as the gears shifted. The tires pinched the gravel as you rambled down the hill. Just like that, you were gone.

My heart sank. Summer partings usually hold, for us, a kind of sweet sorrow: the difficulty of our being separated is eclipsed or, at least, muted by the fact that I am busy visiting family while you are busy working.

Circumstances this year are the same; but there is nothing of sweetness to it; only sorrow.

“Who’s coming, Mom?” Audrey asked.

“No one,” I said. “That was Daddy…going.” In the silence, half-sleeping, I blinked back tears.

“No one’s coming? No one’s coming a get me?”

“No, no one’s coming to get you,” I said.

"You – you staying here with me, Mom?”

“Yes. I’m staying here.”

“O-kay, Mom.”

We lay in bed together, fully awake, until after 5, when Audrey finally nodded off. I carried her noiselessly back to bed and we slept until almost 10, notwithstanding Evie's waking once or twice.

After she called to me, and I lifted her out of bed, Audrey said, “A big giant coming to get you!”

“Did you dream,” I asked, “that a big giant was coming to get me?”

Yeesss,” said Audrey. “A big giant coming to get-a you! And – and – coming to get Daddy!”

“Well, you don’t have to worry about a big giant getting Daddy because Daddy is too big. And it won’t get me because Daddy would save me.”

“Yes,” agreed Audrey. “Daddy save you.”

And this week, my darling Dutch, you did.


Sommer said...

oh Heather...I know this too well...I cried with you as I read this entry.

Lindsay said...

I'm still crying!!