I'm working from home today; my 12-year-old son, Grover is tucked lovingly onto the sofa, so cute wrapped in blankets, his cat cuddling him as he... selfishly sucks down juice and overindulges on Netflix while I slave away at my desk amid the distracting booms of a superhero movie battle so I can make client's deadlines while diligently dodging the germs of yet another. Autumn. Illness!
*Breathe, Rebecca breathe*
When Grover holds his glass up above the sofa back, (my desk is directly behind the sofa) tapping the glass with his fingernail, and asks for yet another glass of juice I'm immediately filled with self-loathing as a mother as I grit my teeth and roll my eyes. I'm in the middle of typing up an article; I've already seriously begun to doubt my ability to make the deadline. I typed: "Since 2011, [business name here] has been serving up the close knit community of Gig Harbor seasonal decor year-round, but customers love juice..."
"Juice, Mom, I need some more juice." (The empty glass wiggles back and forth in his hand to emphasis his statement.)
"Please?" I say in reminder.
"Yeah." He mutters. *glass wiggles*
I try to make my sigh inaudible; I try so hard not to say what I'm thinking; "Sure, more juice, although, if you don't leave me alone for more than three-minutes at a time, I'll never finish this article and there will BE no more juice, or Christmas, for that matter!!!"
"Sure, honey; just a minute." The glass disappears, but the tapping continues; in his educated wisdom of what "just a minute" actually means, he knows better than to stay silent, and he's right, the juice will turn to wine before I get to him if he's quiet; still, I couldn't help but feel the tempo of blood in the vein in my temple match the tapping of Grover's fingernail against his empty glass.
I give. I get up from the desk, round the corner of the sofa and see him swinging a twisted, chewed-on straw; flecks of juice landing on my living room rug... his blanket... the back of the sofa... the cat.
"Get me a new straw; this one's busted." (I silently insert the 'please' that I know must be there. It's there. It IS. Or I will go bat s*** crazy.)
"Grover! You're getting juice everywhere!" I say, realizing too late that I'm saying it through gritted teeth.
"Oops!" he giggles. He GIGGLES! For the love of all that is good and holy, he's giggling.
I snatch the straw and the glass out of his hands with more force than I mean to, and cringe at his look of being taken aback; his eyes, glassy with fever, and his hair matted from sweating; he looks as though I just slapped him, and I feel it...
Worst. Mother. Ever.
"Do you want some ice?" I ask, in a desperate, but weak attempt to put kindness back into my tone and actions. He doesn't answer.
For the love of God (pardon the pun) how the hell does Michelle Dugger manage such a kind, calm, and mothering voice with her children, no matter what's going on? How? I'll tell you how; because if one of them was sick, she would just have one of the other eleven-thousand children fetch some juice. With ice AND a straw! I chance a look at the cat on Grove's lap, as though she might be an option, but she just looks back with suspicion and a look in her eye that says, "Get the damn juice, woman; my master is thirsty, and while you're at it, there are six pieces of food missing from my bowl."
I pour the juice slowly, feeling the heat in my face. My ears are on fire, and I am surprised to feel the sting of tears in my eyes. Sadness? Anger? I don't really know, but I take a long drink from the diminishing bottle of grape juice, stopping myself from draining the bottle, knowing that if I don't finish the article and get paid, there actually won't be any more juice. I try to feel the cold all the way down to my belly while hot tears, only two of them, escape down my cheeks.
Parenting is hard.
Parenting alone is painfully hard.
Parenting alone with a terminal diagnosis is like living in quicksand buried nearly up to your nose.
After receiving a diagnosis last March, and then watching my health spiral downward as I struggled through chemotherapy and dialysis treatments, and constant pain in my bones, I finally resigned from my job near Seattle to relaunch my own business so I could spend more time with Grover and focus on my health. I have gone back and forth in my own head so many times wondering if I made the right decision.
I know that I don't get everything right, but every once in a while I see the signs that I'm not doing everything wrong, either. I inwardly groan as Grove gets up off the sofa and comes around to me, I can not handle another interruption.
I can not.
Standing next to me, Grove leans in and smells my hair, something he does often; ever so briefly, he leans his fever-hot cheek against mine, his chin resting softly on my shoulder; "love you, Mama." This time I know what the stinging tears are made of as I will them not to fall; a mother's joy and gratitude.
This boy is my heart; I will meet my deadlines, and dammit, I will buy more juice, because this... this is where we are now, and I wouldn't trade it for any job, or for all the money in the world; I honestly would not.
Single parents, don't give up; even if you lose your s*** out once in a while, it's okay, and it's going to get better. You know what? If you didn't care, you wouldn't freak out over juice.