My middle child is home sick today. This is the child who tries to negotiate with illness so that she doesn’t miss school. The child who once came down with scarlet fever while we were on vacation…who knows how long she was actually sick before she finally succumbed. She is not and never has been one to appreciate much attention while she’s sick. Just leave her alone and let her sleep.
Which is something I can fully support seeing as that’s how I like to deal with illness. Just leave me alone and let me sleep.
But today, more than anything I want to ignore her wishes. Instead, I wish I could scoop her up in my arms and hold her close. To sit so long and so very still that I can actually feel her heart beating, feel that subtle shake a body makes when it is still of everything beside a tiny breath and a steady heart beat.
She’s never been one to want that. She’s a hugger and a snuggle but 100% on her terms. So even as a tiny infant, she’d snuggle in my arms until she was ready to be allowed her own space. And then she would move away or ask to be put down.
She has always been this way.
And as long as I have known her, I have wanted to scoop her up and hold her very close.
So today, while she is laying down on the couch, I fuss over her — doing what she will allow me and wishing she’d allow more. Juice with a straw, a box of tissues, books, a laptop with a movie. And I will wait for her to fall asleep again.
And then I will very, very carefully sit at the end of the couch and set her feet in my lap. Her feet are bigger than mine these days, now that she is on the cusp of her teens. But these feet, they are the same ones I kissed nearly 12 years ago after I counted each toe. These are the feet I’ve been socking and shoeing for so many years, the feet that I will love in all ways, for always.
I will scoop up whatever part of her I can today, and I will wish with my mother’s heart that this virus is short-lived, that her immune system is strong. I will wish that this illness is the worst one she battles in her tomorrows. I will wish that her best yesterday is her worst tomorrow.
And I will wish with my mother’s heart that nothing and no one takes her from this earth.
In honor of all the mother’s hearts that have been broken by war and violence, famine and floods, mental illness and greed, may our children live to not only see tomorrow, but to know joy.