Thursday, June 11
Caroline is in her pajamas on her bed, crawling at me with a lovely little grin on her face. She’s cupped her right hand and attached it to the side of her mouth, and she’s coming in towards my left ear for the whisper, “Tomorrow, Mommy…we can go to the pool. If you’re a good girl. And then we can get ice cream.” She is so sincere. Her warm breath puffs and tickles my ear, but my whole body reacts, like she’s blessing me, curing me. I close my eyes—this is the first time Caroline has whispered in my ear. Afterwards, I sit on the rocking chair, telling her the story she wants to hear; then I wait, as I do sometimes, watching her fall asleep.
I can’t get out of the rocking chair; I’m tired. Mr. Potato head’s arm lies under Caroline’s hamper unattached to his body—he’s a casualty in her colorfully cluttered room, like Oz’s wicked witch beneath the fallen house. Nobody’s safe when my little munchkins are running around, but they’re both asleep now, and it’s quiet. I’ve noticed that toddlers are noisy. While I’d like to say that their noise is like music, there’s actually a lot of whining, crying, and shrieking going on in and around my head these days, and it can be tiresome and loud. Carol Gilligan writes about girls in the school years needing to find their voices. I’ll have to cross that bridge, but for now my girls have theirs intact, often at high volume. So I sit and think about the day: what made me laugh, what didn’t, what I got around to doing, what I didn’t, what I probably won’t get around to doing tomorrow.
Then there’s Krista. She learned she had a slow growing tumor in her brain, just after delivering her first child, Anna Mae. I see Krista in the neighborhood. In fact, our kitchen window looks out at her front door. I think of her in the morning when I drink my coffee; I think of her at night when I close the curtains on the day, heading to sleep with the bold assumption that I’ll be waking up, doing it all over again the next day. And I’m thinking of her now as I sit in the rocker.
She’s going in tomorrow for brain surgery. She could die, or she could live, and there’s much that could happen in between. I picture her tonight in her house—the same as mine—in her child’s bedroom, sitting on a rocking chair, watching her baby fall asleep. Would this be the last time? How does she allow herself to think that way? How does she avoid it? And how do I as a bystander, a passerby, do more than pray and wish deeply that Krista will be here for Anna Mae when Anna Mae first learns to whisper in an ear?
Wednesday, June 17
Krista has survived surgery and grueling post-surgery complications. 70% of her tumor is now gone. She will learn in some time what that means for the long term, but she’ll be home with her daughter by the end of the week. Anna Mae, bring on the noise!
Krista, welcome home. May that first whisper be yours.