I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
“How are you doing?”
I never quite know how to answer that.
If it’s a friend, looking me in the eye, reaching over to touch my hand, I answer it quite differently from the girl scanning my groceries at the check-out.
“Fine,” I say to the store clerk. Even though everything isn’t fine.
“Fine,” I sometimes say to the friend. Even though they know everything isn’t fine. And sometimes I answer truthfully.
“Fine,” I sometimes say to my family — and they call me out. So I skip the “fine” part and tell them the truth.
Deirdre came over the other day. She works nights and had a doctor’s appointment so she stopped in to visit after her check-up.
Well, I wasn’t fine that day.
“Hannah was throwing up last night,” I told her. It was the previously-mentioned night of the vomiting.
“And Grampa woke up early and was confused.” We’re staying with my father while he recovers from some physical problems he has had.
“And Dad is a little frustrated with this living apart thing.” Understandably so. Sometimes family life is just hard.
Then her tiredness hit her like a truck. It was nearly four in the afternoon and she still hadn’t slept from working the previous night.
“Would it be okay if I slept for just a couple of hours?” she asked. “You can wake me up when you want to go to bed and I’ll go home. I don’t think I’d be safe driving right now.”
I agreed, so, off she went to sleep in the room where I’m staying. It’s the quietest.
I tried to wake her around 8 PM. My lack of sleep from the previous night was starting to weigh heavy on me.
I tried again at 8:30 PM. She was sound asleep.
At 8:45 PM, I went in one last time to grab some pajamas. She stirred, and I told her to stay as long as she needed. I knew she would be off that night. Then I went to sleep in my brother’s old room. It’s a cold, cluttered, catch-all room, but the bed was made and I was tired so I went to sleep.
In the morning I peeked in at Deirdre, but she was gone.
In her place this a neatly folded note:
I read it over and over. Especially the part that said, “Thanks for being a great & caring mom. Sorry for the mean things I said when I was sad or upset or 15. I think you’re doing an excellent job.”
Tears welled up in my eyes, but I fought them back. I’m still not ready for that cry.
But the note changed everything.
It reminded that even when family life is at its hardest, it’s all worth it in the end.