It’s Sunday morning around 3 AM. I’m sitting on the couch at a friend’s house, savoring the last beer of the evening, still glowing from the show my band played at a local bar just five hours prior. My friends and I may be middle-aged but we are giggling like school girls. Our kids are elsewhere, sleeping and safe, and we are talking about everything . . . movies, men, our mothers, life. I know I will pay dearly for this venture into the youthful territory of pre-dawn revelry –particularly in a few hours when my family will look to me to be the functional, dependable mother and wife who will make breakfast, but for now I feel like a teenager. The deep, intense friendship we are enacting, the underlying sense of possibility that permeates the night all takes me back to the summer after high school graduation when the future was unknowable, but the mystery seemed overwhelmingly in my favor. Good things have happened and therefore more good things could happen. Summer has just begun. “The future’s open wide.”
It’s Wednesday afternoon around 3 PM. I’m standing in a darkened room next to the bed of a dying woman. We have known each other for ten years. She is the mother of my oldest son’s one-time best friend. Together we have endured and enjoyed countless play dates, some which ended well and some which ended in tears (the children’s, not ours). The friendship between our sons fizzled out a few years back, but she and her family have remained regular attendees at our New Year’s Eve parties, including this past New Year’s Eve when she shuffled into my kitchen, thin and frail, to take her usual place the table with all my friends. Her presence made the party feel complete. But now she turns her head towards me, her eyes flutter open and fix upon me for a moment before looking away. We know each other well enough for her to say, with the most emphasis she can muster, “This sucks!” Already she is tired and drifting off again and we have run out of things to say. “Take care,” I tell her, “I’ll catch you later.”
It’s Thursday morning around 4 AM. I’m sitting on the couch in my living room. My youngest son has a headache and a fever of 104.6. My husband is rocking him in the recliner. I have administered Tylenol and placed a cold pack on his forehead. We have been fighting this fever since the early evening. The advice nurse told me everything is fine as long as it stays below 105 degrees. I’m worried – not really worried, but still worried. Life takes detours; one moment changes everything. What comes next remains unknowable. You hear stories all the time.
It’s Thursday morning around 10 AM. My son’s fever is down, not gone, but back to around 100. He’s feeling better and acting more like himself.
It’s absolutely gorgeous outside, an anomalous warm and sunny day for our coastal Northern California town. I step out on the deck and feel the warmth rise up from the sun-heated boards. There’s not a hint of cold, even the icy sea breeze that often threads itself through the usual spring-like temperatures of our climate is still. Summer!
“Come outside,” I tell my son. “It’s beautiful out here.”
Still in his pajamas, he follows me across the deck to the weather-beaten settee and sits on my lap. Instinctively we both close our eyes and turn our faces towards the light.
“Sometimes,” I say, more to myself than to him, “all you have is the warmth of the sun on your face. And sometimes it’s enough.”
He lays his head on my shoulder. I have not felt this content in days.