I was dozing on my flight back to the San Jose airport, in unsettling bumpy air, imaging Echo Lake Boat bumping over the waves. Potatoes, I think, air bumps like potatoes, not big as pumpkins or small as ping pong balls. I watched you behind my closed eyes, scuttling down the airway to your plane. You ran along pulling your roller case, your daddy up ahead. Now I am sad. Just now it overtakes me.
In the plane you next me me you said, “I have ticks,” and pulled off your shirt. Itchy? I asked. One time I told you that after a hike you might feel tickly, a little itchy, please tell me because it could be a tick. Now whenever you want your back scratched you say, “O-o-o, I feel ticks.” and pull off your shirt. Other times I ask if I can do finger walking on your back. Slippers or boots? I ask. You nearly always ask for the deep pressure of finger-boots. “Boots it is”, I respond as you writhe with the pleasure of it.
I allowed myself to believe that in two weeks you were filled to the brim with lasting good things. Not special, but ordinary things. A bathtub gone chilly, refilled with hot water. Just right for a few more minutes of comfy soaking. That warm water, I imagined, soaked into your little worried, depleted cells inflating you with a sense of well-being. Knowing you are deeply loved. Attention, was all it was; fun, easy, relaxed, unconditional from the more grown-up and content branch of your family. Steeping you in the salts of our devotion to your well-being, steaming your skin pink, softening bones and wrinkling your toes into washboards with love. I thought that would be good enough.
But watching you go, I changed my mind. I was fooling myself. Lifted beyond reason by our absolutely lovely two weeks. Your daddy told me that your mommy was just lazy and that she hadn’t changed a bit and was doped up again on pain pills and that you were not being treated well at all. He spilled it all out at a table, sticky with other peoples’ Nachos and beer next to Gate B45. You climbed into the window to watch planes and your daddy talked to me for the first time in months. He wanted everything to be nice and so it seemed it was, but, like one 45 degree day in the winter in Billings, its still really wintertime. He kept telling, dumping, ranting and throwing up his hands and swearing. But we had to rush to your departure, I didn’t ask him what he thought might happen, what he wanted. I didn’t kiss you guys good-bye. And he was empty, lost and supposed to be in charge of you. He dashed up the ramp ahead of you. Parents let their kids go first, don’t they? Bumping along with your little roller case. Worriedly chasing your daddy. Your vacation abruptly over.
Filled with the warm, fragrant oils of our time together made me sleepy-content. I was full of you and I would not let daddy’s story disturb the wash of sweet memories. I protected my heart from daddy’s stories, and stayed on our sandy hiking trail with you. Friday afternoon we made roads with sticks and at night went to the Mexican restaurant, El Palomar with your aunt and uncle where the musicians let you play their maracas. I let myself hold tight that moment when you said to my mother, your Grammie, “you gots a cold, Grammie? A birfday? I gonna’ sing you a song.” And you did. “Twinkle, Twinkle little dar…” from your carseat and gave her the clay circle you rolled and painted for her. I’m hugging that precious moment close. It’s every moment we had. It filled me with joy. Yours and mine.
Then daddy wecked it. That’s why I broke down. I realized I was full….me, not you, and certainly not Daddy. I got a gift, but you got what you came here for, what you have a right to, precious one. Going to Montana with Daddy, full of your own preciousness, seeing yourself as lovable, interesting and worthy of devoted attention..will that put you at risk? At risk with Mommy? I wonder if mommy knows what you have to offer her? and sister Liza? Even if she and daddy are not happy now. Maybe I can help Mommy fall in love with you. Daddy, too. I’ll try to figure something out; I’ll work on it. I’ll keep working on it. It may turn out to be, once again, more for me. Oh, well. That happens sometimes.
Hey, Buddy. Hold on, there may be some grapefruit or pumpkins up ahead; the air’s pretty unstable over the mountains! I love you. gma