January 5, 2008
I easily fall into the trap of putting myself at the end of the queue, behind those I love: Walter, Erin, and Davis, my mom who lives next door, my students, my friends, my intrepid, but demanding pups, even my meager set of home page fans. I'm not complaining. I'm a pretty low maintenance chick. I take my responsibilities as a mother, wife, friend, and professor seriously. Having a full day (mostly) in the service of others is not a bad thing, all else considered.
So, what happens when Walter jets off to an academic conference in DC and Erin's buddy Clayton Sue snatches her away to Fort Worth for four days? Sure, Davis is still here, but our schedules don't mesh all that well (he stays up a tad later than me--three or four hour--and sleeps away a good portion of my waking hours). My mom is next door, of course, but she has her own schedule and only needs me to lift heavy things occasionally. School isn't in session; my friends are traveling. I have time on my hands.
What happens then? Woohoo! I can watch a t.v. show without considering whether it has adult themes. I have first choice on where to sit and what to eat (for instance I don't have to set a good example by eating all of my oatmeal). I can actually finish something I start, instead of putting it on hold to start supper or move the laundry along. I can wait until it's light out to walk Willie. If this state of the world went on very long, I could keep my house as neat as a pin, have all the family photos labeled and in albums, and the gardens denuded of weeds.
But I don't get completely caught up in this happy fantasy. I know that Erin has plans for overnight camp this summer, so I'll have a few days to do a re-enactment. But I'm not ready for her permanent departure, and that is the problem when you raise a child with cancer. The notion that Erin could be gone forever always colors my time alone. I love the sanctuary of my home and having it to myself from time to time, but I can't appreciate it entirely. It feels too selfish and perhaps too much like a reality I don't want to explore.
Somehow it's different with Walter and even Davis. I know that the world can change on a dime. Something tragic could happen to either one of them, unexpected and unwanted, that would rob me of them without warning. Still, when they are away, I don't look at their empty chairs, walk through their empty rooms, straighten their left behind gear, and wonder what it would be like to lose them. I have confidence (perhaps misplaced) that I will always have them. With Erin, I look and see a question mark.
For the record, I hope one day Erin will head out for college, leaving me (and Walter) to rattle around the house, with no cause to complain about her clutter or that her science experiments take up all the space on the bathroom vanity. But we don't want that to happen before August 2015.
So, this morning, I could be happy or sad. Happy that I can call the shots on how I will spend my morning without having to consider anyone else's wants, desires, or feelings. I don't have to cart Erin to yet another activity, time breakfast to fit everyone's schedules, or put my to do list at the bottom of the page. Yet I also have to look into Erin's currently tidy room and consider the ramifications of it staying tidy. . .and how, if she were gone for good, I would wish for mess, mess, and more mess.
I never linger on sad for long (at least sad brought on by my imagination). I will put my wistfulness behind me and enjoy my last few hours of freedom before it's back to my purpose in life, featuring the mom-role, the wife-role, the professor-role, the friend-role, the daughter-role, the constant-and-vigilant-guardian-of-the-world-from-the-destruction-wreaked-by-Willie role (oh, I forgot, I was never off the clock on that one). Here's a reminder of two of my great purposes in life, loving Erin and petting Willie (for the record, I'm not required to dress like either one of them, but occasionally I do, voluntarily):