Friday, May 6, 2011

There's No Telling

photo credit
 I apologize that my topic this week is leaning hard in the direction of being sick. We just can't catch a break around here. Yesterday Madeleine wasn't feeling well, and by that I mean her behavior might have convinced a total stranger that she was dying of some dreadful disease. After an hour of her inconsolable crying, I finally capitulated. I scraped myself out of bed, pulled on a sweatsuit and flip flops, and drove her (and her two sisters) to the Pediatrician's office. I felt so lousy I actually tried to lie down on the two chairs in the exam room and nap while we waited for the doctor to appear. Meanwhile, my girls were playing a rowdy and loud game of hide n'seek that had the entire office staff wondering if there was a mother supervising them. There was. I was just too sick to care. We left an hour later with a diagnosis of allergies. Call me an unfeeling mother, but allergies are decidedly not worth the pain and suffering of getting out of bed to take three kids to the doctor's office.

Fast forward four hours...

Our neighbors have been walking the girls to and from school since I got sick, and when they knocked on my door afterschool I opened to find a sobbing Katherine. "I don't feel well," she wimpered. My neighbor actually carried her all the way home from school because Katherine was crying so hard. I put her on the couch, turned on cartoons, and handed her a cup of juice. Thirty minutes later she experienced a miraculous recovery and was zooming around the house, up to her usual tricks. Is three and a half weeks of being down with mono encouraging hypochondria in my kids?

Fast forward to the next morning...

Elisabeth woke up grumpy and clingy. She screamed and cried if I even put her down for a minute, but otherwise showed no other concerning symptoms. So of course I'm chalking it up to the same melodrama as her older sisters...only by lunchtime she was puking. Is there any motherhood reality more poignant than feeling totally sick while you wipe up your child's vomit?

 Last night I knelt down to say prayers with my girls. Where is daddy? they demanded. We haven't seen him since Sunday night! Indeed. Where is your daddy? I wanted to say. But this has been one of Jeremy's busiest weeks at work and when he is putting in eighteen hour days at the office I don't feel like I can call him and complain about my mono and puking toddler sorrows. If he could be home helping, he would be. And so I hugged my girls tightly. We're going to be okay, I assured them. But how do you know? Madeleine asked. I sat back and thought for a minute. How many people have brought us dinner, movies, coloring books, treats, taken you girls to the park, given you rides to school, or just called or emailed to offer help in the past three weeks?

We counted out loud together. Fifteen. Fifteen families have reached out to us over the past month. My girls smiled at each other. Wow, said Katherine, I guess a lot of people are trying to make it better. Yes they are. And it's a good thing, because if it were all on my shoulders we would have starved two weeks ago! I am grateful. I am so grateful that my eyes turn into drippy faucets every time I open my front door and see a friendly, concerned face. I feel like we are at the mercy of other people right now. Every single thing I've had planned for my life this month has been blown out like a birthday candle, one at a time. We are truly stuck in survival mode. But I am overwhelmed with gratitude to family members, neighbors, and friends who have lovingly and graciously stepped up to help us. I fell asleep last night thinking of these song lyrics by Michael McLean:

There's no telling how much a sunrise means to the one who had a terrible night
and there's no telling how much a hand to hold,
means to one whose being led to the light
and no one can tell,
though at times they might try
what it means to have one friend
that's been true
So I guess there's no telling you
just how much
one heart in the right place can do

This song might reek of cheese, but for me it conjures an important memory. When I was thirteen my Young Women's (church) leader lost her two year old son. He toddled out of the house after his daddy, and ran behind the car just as his dad was backing out of the driveway. As you can imagine, it was a devastating tragedy. A few months after the funeral all of the young women sang this Michael McLean song in church, at the specific request of our bereaved leader. I remember her weeping and sharing with us how the hardest, most excruciating parts of life are made bearable through the love and kindness of others.

Twenty years ago I heard these lyrics and felt moved. It is no small thing for a young girl to watch a grown woman crying, mourning her baby. But this week, twenty years after the fact, I am finally edging closer to what the lyrics meant to her, better imagining the young mother's plight. Not that it is imaginable for someone who hasn't lost a child, but isn't that how all hard things in life are? Pretty much unimaginable to others. For me, the draw of the song is the line there's no telling you. I can write and write about how strange and soul-trying this month has been for our little family. But in the end our sorrows are distinctly our own, and there is nothing anyone can do... except be true friends. And thankfully, gratefully, I have felt that fifteen times over. Thank you. You will never know what it has meant!

PS- Since the finish line of our mono adventure isn't yet in sight, and we are also on the brink of summer time and my kids will be home with me all day, beginning next week I'll be posting only twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.


  1. Loved your post. Just came to your blog through power of moms. I love your words and realness. Thank you so much. We have all had times when we have needed to depend on others. I am surprised at how willing so many are when they are aware. It is difficult sometimes to admit we need help and accept someones help. But when we do, I believe both are lifted for the better. I love McLean songs. I used to listen to the all time time as a youth. I will be thinking of you and your sweet family. Hope you get feeling stronger soon.
    Julie Burningham

  2. Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by my blog!


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