I wanted to write about the blue sky morning, the salty air breathing in and out of the windows. Perfect summer weather for Chris’s birthday. I wanted to write about his generous heart, his goodness, the way he is steady and true. And about the dedicated, patient, playful, loving father he is. A man who will do anything for his family. I take him for granted sometimes, this man I could not live without.
These were the early morning sentences I wanted to write over coffee with Sesame Street playing in the background.
I almost wrote about how I managed to make potato salad, veggie pasta salad, and a chocolate layer cake while juggling two busy toddlers yesterday, how it required more stamina than I ever could’ve imagined in my pre-motherhood days.
Before the day pulled like an undertow, I was going to write about how I had it so together, the piles of laundry folded, the beach toys collected, the sandwiches made. We even had time to jump in the car so I could hit the gym for a jog. I told Isabella, please don’t fall asleep, don’t nap yet! I had the timing lined up just so. I was checking the clock and reviewing a list of last-minute things in my head when she started projectile vomiting. I pulled to the side of the road, cupped my hands to catch the next round of bright red strawberry slush. Tossed it to the ground, searched the backseat for anything to wipe my hands on, found a tiny autumn jacket. Oh honey, oh my. And she said, hiccups, I’m sorry mommy. And I said, it’s not your fault, it’s okay. She and the car seat and her Ernie doll spectacular with strawberry vomit.
At home, we rinsed off in the outdoor shower before running a bath. I nursed her to sleep and then got to work cleaning out the car and the car seat. Chris was due home at 12:30. I hoped we’d still make it to the beach.
My mom had text me earlier about being at the vet. I called her after I finished scrubbing the car seat, and she tells me their younger dog Carly Lou, still practically a pup, sweet and gentle and a big part of our lives, is very sick. Carly, who greets us with a happy bark and jumps to open the front door with her paws.
As we were walking to the beach, the text came through. Bone cancer, kidney failure. Carly is gone. So suddenly gone, this sweet pup, and we didn’t get to say goodbye. I can’t tell Chris, can’t break his heart on his birthday.
There is sun and scorching sand and cool water. Later we have a birthday cookout. Isabella plays her harmonica. As the night goes on, she grows tired. Everyone is outside drinking wine and finishing dinner. I stand alone in my dad’s kitchen holding her, her head resting on my shoulder. We sway and sway. I hug her to me and we sway. I feel so crushingly in love with my daughter, that way you fall ever deeper in love with your child, that heart swell. I breathe it all in. The celebration, the joy, the heartache, the death, the love, the gratitude all contained in the space of one blue sky day.
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