As I type this, rain is spitting against my windows and pinging off the metal chimney. They are constant noises this time of year in this place, but I have to concentrate to hear them, as they compete against the shriek of the washing machine as it agitates Biggest’s sheets and comforter. It’s Monday morning and I’m doing laundry.
When I stripped Biggest’s sheets, the mattress pad slipped off and revealed the mattress pad beneath it. The top mattress pad, waterproof and still without the slightly melted evidence of having spent too many times in the dryer, is the kind that fits over the mattress like a sheet. But it isn’t a snug fit so it always slips and slides. Like it did today, revealing the pad beneath. In fact, there are 3 waterproof pads on Biggest’s bed, a left-over testimony of when Old Cat was with us.
Old Cat was a bed wetter towards the end of her life and all our mattresses are layered against her urine, much like I layered my babies’ cribs against overly full diapers and vomit. She was on an on-going regiment of antibiotics to help keep the irritation in her bladder under control and went to the vet’s on a very regular basis.
And even though Old Cat left us in June, our beds remain as they did the last day she left for the vet’s office.
It’s not as if I set about creating a memorial to her when I left the mattress pads on the beds. It just slipped my mind. But this morning, as I realized they are still there, beneath us every night as we sleep, reminding us of the 10 years Old Cat slept with us and watched over us, I was struck by how our everyday normalcy stays with us. In fact, it is the boring normalness of the everyday that sustains us when things are hard.
This morning, before I walked the dog and started laundry, I sent the four people I love the most out into the world. Afterwards I realized that my day has had no hugs or kisses in it. None of the normal bits of my day’s start that also sustain me. I write this not to shame them or even to comment on the hurriedness of our morning.
I write this because those four people left this morning intent on getting where they needed to be and knew I’d be here when they came back home.
Because that is how life is supposed to work.
We get up, do the things we need to do, and count on our days being their normal, boring selves.
Except that sometimes our days are not normal, are anything but boring.
A few weeks ago, cancer took someone I love. I thought I had more time to reach out to her, to make sure she knew how much she changed my life’s trajectory. But while my normal and boring days continued to be filled with laundry and school drop-offs and pick-ups, her life was transitioning into its end.
And by the time I realized how close it was, it was too late.
The news is filled with people’s stories of how their everyday turned on its ear and became anything but normal and boring. Most often those turning points, those intersections between happiness and tears, are because of tragedies. Those turning points are the loud bits in our lives, demanding our attention like the screech of my old washing machine laboring away as it washes my son’s sheets.
Today I’m trying to focus not on the screeching but on the soft patter. I’m trying to focus not on the sadness and heartbreak but on the everyday bits that sustain me even though they are easy to overlook. Because the everyday has its staying power. It lays a foundation that supports us throughout the dark hours, just like the layers of waterproof mattress pads on my family’s beds. They may have outlived their initial purpose but now they are part of our everyday, part of our history, and part of our future as well.
I miss my friend and I will for always. But I believe she is among the stars again…and that calms my sad heart. It doesn’t make the sadness go away but it calms me enough to hear the quiet patter of the rain over the screeching loudness.
Today, I choose to focus on the quiet patter of the everyday and take strength in it so that no matter what surprises today may hold, I can be sustained.