Our summer has been a series of hot days spent poolside, outings with the sole purpose of knocking items off our summer bucket list, and lazy days spent at home punctuated by too much screen time, overzealous brotherly "love," and a cycle of mess, clean, repeat.
Bedtimes have been loosely observed, ignored in favor of another chapter of Harry Potter or popcorn and a classic movie like The Sandlot. Despite the late nights, the boys still get up with the sun. At least now they've learned to keep the volume on the t.v. low so Mom can sleep a little longer. They put in their own toaster waffles, and big brothers help little with glasses of cold morning milk.
Last week, after many late nights spent reading and laughing at movies and riding bikes as the sun set, miracle of miracles - the boys actually slept in past 7:00 am. Three of the four were up by 8:00 am, and we busied ourselves in the kitchen making eggs and pancakes and sharing responsibility for emptying the dishwasher of it's clean dishes.
As the clock moved around the hour, breakfast was eaten and dirty dishes were filling the dishwasher again. I kept looking at the clock and looking at the stairs. Lil' C wasn't awake yet. There was no noise coming from upstairs: he wasn't simply watching television or playing a video game.
I contemplated checking on him, but I didn't want to wake him if he really needed the sleep.
A few minutes before 9:00 I heard footsteps upstairs, footsteps that made the path to the bathroom and back to the bedroom. That's when panic set in.
Six years ago, I had a similar morning - television on softly, toaster waffles toasting slowly. Three little boys awake and one not. One who slept late, who went to the bathroom and returned to bed.
And when I checked on him, he was having a grand mal seizure.
Then there was an ambulance.
And a doctor.
And a tumor.
I live in fear of this happening again.
I think as moms we have certain fears ingrained in us: illness, freak accidents, kidnapping. Worry is just a part of the mom job.
But when you are a grieving mom, when you have been through something very tragic and perhaps held your own child in your arms as he died, you fear history repeating itself with one of your other children.
After all, if it could happen once, it could happen again . . . right?
I remember a time shortly after Joey died when Knox started complaining of headaches every day.
Oh God, no, please no, I thought each time he brought me his concern.
A trip to the radiologist revealed he just had congested sinuses.
But who's to say that something else won't sneak up on us when we least expect it?
Every headache, every stomach ache, fever, illness, bump on the head, I wonder, Is it cancer? Or add here what other grieving moms fear - another miscarriage, another heart condition or genetic defect. Whatever it was that took their child away .
I guess it's a bit of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I didn't realize that until I was at a blog conference and someone fell to the floor having a seizure. I started hyperventilating and crying: the same reaction I experienced in the ER after the doctor told me about Joey's tumor.
And the same reason why I can't be around kids who are bloated from steroids and who have lost their hair from chemo. I think I can be strong, but I realize there are unresolved feelings there.
No matter how much we blog about our experiences, no matter how much we encourage other mamas to talk and share - and we embrace them for doing so - we are still scared. We still hold those memories so close to the surface, right over our hearts, and right in the forefront of our minds. Even if the same thing can never happen again, there is a fear of something big affecting our mama hearts and hitting us out of the blue.
I don't know how to make that feeling go away. Like I said, I think it's just part of motherhood - the beauty, the fullness, and the astounding happiness and joy mixed with the fear and uncertainty, anxiety and sadness that simply come inherent in the job.
* * *
At nine o'clock that morning last week when I didn't hear my fourth set of little feet coming down the stairs, I took a deep breath and went up to Lil' C's room. He was half lying on and half standing by his bed, face on his blanket, thumb in his mouth. When I came in the room, he yawned and smiled.
"Hey Buddy, good morning," I said as I wrapped him in a huge hug. "I have pancakes and bacon downstairs. Are you coming down?"
"Pancakes and bacon?! Yeah, I'm on my way! Just let me get dressed." He scurried off leaving his blanket on the bed.
As I turned to go back to the kitchen, I felt the tension leave my body with a sigh.
Not today, I thought. We're all safe today.