As Good As It Gets (No Jack Nicholson)

Callie was not happy. A two year old recent recipient of surgery rarely is. Carson and Grant were doing what brothers do (fighting) and being quite loud. The dog was circling Lacey’s feet because she was sure there was food in her hands. Caroline had lost her bink and was making it well known that she didn’t like it. A triphasic storm of chaos, noise, and tears.

It has to get better than this, right?

***

Three days prior, I was a bundle of nerves. Callie, my daughter, was under the knife and I was alone with those thoughts. My two sons, Carson and. Grant, were at school. The baby, Caroline, was sleeping and although her listening skills were phenomenal, she didn’t offer any encouraging words to ease my anxiety.

I made bottles. I rocked Caroline to sleep. I changed an enormously ferocious diaper. I took a stroll around the block. I read. I prayed. Loaded the dishwasher. Cleaned the kitchen.

The boys completed their studies for the day and their madness kept me distracted. Breaking up fights over toys, consoling the loser, and correcting the winner. Chicken nugget lunches with chocolate milk and folding clothes. I welcomed the chores.

A phone call. THE phone call. All was well. The surgery had been a success and my first daughter was doing well.

Relief. I exhaled for the the first time in 3 hours. I prayed again. A prayer of thanksgiving.

****

Fast forward three days. What constitutes a soft mechanical diet consumes Lacey and the boys are happy to have a large amount of gogurts in the house. The soup I put in the microwave for 30 seconds too long is too hot for my little survivor. The ice cube I’m attempting to bite in half sticks to my bottom lip. The bowl of soup in my left hand and the chocolate milk, spoon, and other half of the ice cube in my right hand, prevent me from doing anything other than attempting to shake the ice off of my lip. I imagine I resemble a wet dog after a bath, only less coordinated.

The ice cube falls and dinner is served. Later, the boys retire to their beds. My recently repaired daughter has her head on my shoulder and I can feel the drool seeping through my shirt. She exhales correctly on my shoulder for the first time and hug her a little tighter.

****

I’m gathering the toys and arranging cushions on the couch. The same toys and the same cushions and the same mess I’ve dealt with all day. Dishes in the sink can wait. I fall into the recliner, flip the handle , and push back. I’m finally going to read the paragraph that I’ve tried so desperately to read all day. With the highlighter cap in my mouth, the first seven words scroll across my eyes.

It stops at seven words. 20 feet away, a door opens and a little girl stands behind a safety gate rubbing her eyes. She doesn’t cry or whine. She stands there, pointing at me with her Disney princess blanket over her shoulder. There’s no plea. There’s no question. There’s an expectation.

Of course, I oblige.

It has to get better than this?

That isn’t possible. This is as good as it gets and it’s incredible.

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