Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I wrote this post two days ago, when the world seemed very slightly less dark, and then - as the moon moved directly in front of the sun and blocked its light - decided that I couldn't post it, because reflecting upon my daughter's tyrannical approach to love scraped all the wrong nerves on a day without light. But then she got sick, very sick, yesterday and I spent too many hours pacing the hospital floor, gripped with worry, waiting for her to lift her head and say anything, anything at all, anything to show us that she was fine, that she would be fine, and when she finally did lift her head she said this: WHERE IS DADDY I WANT DADDY NOT YOU MOMMY, DADDY.

And my heart leapt, happy to have her back with any measure of her imperious glory.

Which is why I post this now. In gratitude.


I hear the thump-thump-thump of her little feet as she advances down the hallway toward the bathroom. I listen from my cocoon of bubbles as she stops outside the door, hesitating for the briefest moment before turning the handle and opening the door just wide enough to slip through, a wisp in pink flannel pajamas, squinting against the glare of the bathroom light.

Mommy? I have to go poo.

That's okay, sweetie. Can you manage on your own? I sit up in the tub and offer my hand to steady her. She ignores me. She yanks her pajama bottoms down with one hand and hoists her half-naked self up onto the toilet seat with the other. I slouch back into my bubbles.

She leans forward and rest her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands, a thinker smaller than Rodin ever imagined. Mommy?

- Yes?

I don't love you.

- No?


- Not at all?

Not all the time. Only when you do fun things.

- Did we do fun things today?


- Did we do fun things yesterday?


- When do you not love me?

Some of the other time.

- When do you love Daddy?

All of the time.

- And why do you not love me all of the time?

Because I only love you some of the time.

- That hurts my feelings.

Okay. Dramatic sigh. I love you most of the time.

I debate whether or not to press her on this. I know that if I ask for a more fulsome declaration of love, I'll get one. I also know that she'll try to extract a price.

I decide that I'm fine with that.

And if you ask me for something tonight - like maybe will I stay in your bedroom with you, and read you an extra story? - and I tell you that I don't want to, because I'm hurt that you only love me some of the time...?

Then I will tell you that I love you all of the time.

We sit - I in my bath, she on her porcelain throne - and think about this.

We have stop talking now, she says, because I'm going to do my poo.

And she did. While I sat in my rapidly cooling bath, watching the bubbles deflate around me and marveling at my little empress, setting her boundaries, defining her terms. Letting my heart feel its hurt, and then letting it go and watching it swirl down the drain in a little flush of pride.


She's still very sick. We don't know what it is. Hopefully, it's only a virus and we can keep her hydrated until it works its way through. Until then, I sit on edge, waiting for little tyrannical demands, waiting for petty and imperious dismissals, waiting for my little dictator to resume power.


Monday, April 13, 2009

This Dark And Mourning Earth

And so God continues to call children back to him, and I - who watch helpless as my sister lives this loss, counting down the years, months, weeks, days, minutes until her son's heart stops beating and she must make her peace with a last goodbye; I who know nothing of this pain, except from a distance, a distance that does nothing to keep me at a remove from fear - am contemplating faithlessness, am wondering whether faith makes it easier or more difficult to bear such fear, such loss. Does faith offer the possibility of meaning in loss, does it provide relief from the fear? Or does loss in the presence of faith feel like betrayal?

I have not suffered the losses that my friends have suffered, that my sister will suffer. I have not suffered these losses and so I do not know these losses. But I fear them. I fear them with an intensity that makes my hands tremble, that makes my breath draw short. I fear them, and in this fear I feel betrayed by my faith that there is something in this universe that gives our lives meaning. I feel betrayed, because I know, I know, that if I ever face this loss, I will struggle to find meaning and I will fail.

I struggle and fail to find meaning now - I recoil at the very idea that there is some meaning that I should find, that I should seek to make this better, that I should search for the thing that makes this all okay, as if this, any of this, could be made to be okay - and this has nothing to do with me, nothing to do with me at all. And I feel betrayed. By God. By life. By whatever force in the universe is supposed to make these things make sense.

They cannot make sense, of course. If these things made sense - if the world were perfectly comprehensible by reason - then we would have no need for faith, for God. For philosophy, even, although about this last I am not certain. It does not matter, though, because even philosophers quaver in the face of death, Socrates notwithstanding. It does not matter, because even if there were some answer, I am not sure that it would console. There is no consolation for the loss of a child. None.

Shale went. Tanner will go. And in the course of only a few short days, Maddie, and now Thalon ("who is that?" Emilia demanded, looking at his picture on my screen. "Just a boy," I said, fighting the tears. "Just a boy.") and who knows how many other unknown children of unknown parents, suffering unknown loss, untold betrayal at the hands of gods who, promising love, deliver death and pain. Who knows?

I don't. And I am lost.