Written May 16, 2009
I’ve been visiting my two oldest kids in New England for the last two and a half weeks. Last night my daughter and I drove, from where she lives in Vermont, to my son’s home, in Salem, Massachusetts, so the four of us–my husband had driven from Vermont earlier that same day–could spend one last weekend together before my husband and I headed home on our return trip to Minnesota.
I picked my daughter up at 11:00pm, after her shift, from the hospital nursing home where she works as a nursing assistant, and we headed south from there. We arrived at our destination just after 2:00am, tired and ready for bed, but stayed up another hour talking and deciding who would sleep where. My son lives in a very small apartment, yet no one seems to mind, as the close quarters makes for a cozy and intimate visit. My husband and I called dibs on the bedroom (I’ve slept on the futon and it’s not good. LOL), my son took the futon, and his sister crashed on an airbed on the floor.
Early the next morning I got up and made my way to the bathroom to shower, scaling past the TV, being careful not to step on the air mattress wedged between the futon and television. As I finishing up my morning routine, I exited the bathroom and found my daughter and son awake, still in their beds, talking quietly. Because I miss those moments most–the times when the kids were small and all four of them would come into our bedroom, on weekend mornings, to pile into bed with us–I climbed into the queen-sized airbed and snuggled under the covers, next to my daughter, to join in on the fun and conversation. A few minutes later, my husband came in from wherever he had been off to and climbed in on the other side of my daughter, the three of us on the airbed and my son on the other side of my husband, above, on the futon. Almost perfect, if not for the absence of my two youngest kids.
The conversation came around to music, as it most always does, and the three of them began sharing songs from their iPods and iPhones, talking and laughing over what they were listening to. Of course I was hearing almost nothing they were saying, didn’t recognize any of the music, and had absolutely no clue as to what was so funny, but on this morning I didn’t seem to mind being left out. To interrupt, in order to ask for repeats and explanations, would have somehow changed or taken away from the interaction, the flow of the conversation, and the spontaneity of the laughter. I found myself looking on, perfectly content to watch the happy scene and to savor the feeling of family intimacy I miss due to our kids being grown and so far away from where we are.
It’s funny how in the times when I feel left out I sometimes don’t know whether to laugh or cry? It may even be true that I have no control over which way it goes?
At the very moment my lack of hearing stands up and robs me of understanding and participation, I feel as if I’ve been punched in the stomach. I try to catch up, but when I realize I can’t, I get a rush in my chest, my face flushes hot, and there is a fraction of a second that hangs in the air. One, brief, moment while my heart waits for the trigger that will determine which way the next moment will go–laughter or tears.
I wonder at what makes a situation more bearable than another?
On this particular morning it is laughter that won out, and in this instance I know the reason why. The visual of three of the people I love most in life, having fun, sharing intimate moments, laughing and making jokes over a shared interest, was enough to tip the balance in the favor of laughter. It really didn’t matter that I wasn’t catching the specific content of what was being said or what was being laughed about. Simply being part of a setting that brought back the feeling of those weekend mornings of long ago, when we laughed and talked, six bodies in one bed, two parents and four little kids, gave me such a wash of contentment that I couldn’t bear to interrupt or give in to that ‘sad’ and ‘left out’ feeling that not hearing sometimes leaves me with.
Tomorrow, I’m afraid, I will find reason enough to cry, but on this day my heart chose to laugh.