This past Sunday our little family of three caught a plane from Newark at 7:30 in the morning – which, math majors, is 4:30 California time, in case you’re wondering.
We’d had a most wonderful time on the east coast, visiting Boston and New York, sight-seeing and Yelping* local restaurants for the best local food. Cancan was a champ, taking his naps in the stroller as we rallied over cobblestones and sewer grates alike, smiling at strangers and riding the ferris wheel at the Toys R Us in Times Square with Mama and Aunt Tina.
We ate buttery lobster rolls and roasted beet salad and chicken parmesan with angel hair pasta, though never at the same time – and even snuck a late night box of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets with honey and BBQ sauce at 9 o’clock one night …just because we could. We relished and lapped up conversation with family, asking questions and telling stories and just being, promising to make it a point to see each other again soon, because it matters, because there’s life in being with those who have known the whole, the entirety of who you are.
So when the HBH (Hot Black Husband) began complaining of a side ache earlier in the week, I didn’t think much of it – in fact [full disclosure here], my response was potentially something like, “Um, did you carry and give birth to an 8-pound baby? Whatchu whining about?”
Mercy has never been my strong suit.
And apparently I really, really like carrying my own personal female trump card.
But by Saturday, he was starting to drag – in a very non-spirited, energetic traveling husband sort of way. Still, maybe I thought he was being a little dramatic about the whole thing – I mean, really, a kidney stone is how big, Mr. Husband?
[Before the tomato throwing begins, I go back to Confession #1: I need more mercy. I know, I know, point taken.]
And then he went to bed early …on the last night with his favorite person in the world, Brother John. I should have figured it out then.
But I didn’t.
Instead, we hopped on the plane the next morning, and I prepared myself for five hours of solo parenting misery at 38,000 feet. Cancan was particularly crabby, and just wanted to go to his daddy, but Daddy was sweating and shaking and running to the bathroom every 10 minutes. But instead of practicing love in the best way possible, I put on my Grumpy Face; I got angry that he wasn’t helping, somehow convinced that his high school drama classes were really paying off as we flew the friendly skies.
[Side note, aftermath internal, retrospective dialogue: Really, Cara, really? Who am I? Is there not an ounce of Baby Jesus inside of me?]
And after we landed, the HBH staggered off the plane, unable to even carry his backpack and his camera case, which are like his airplane-traveling babies. I guess that’s when it started to click.
Neighbor Kara came and picked us up, and pulled me aside when he slumped into the backseat, refusing to drive: “Uh, Care-wrah,” she said in her nasally Rhode Island accent, “the man doesn’t want to drive his own car-ah. Something’s wrong-ah.”
We got back to her house, and started calling urgent cares around the area – which apparently don’t exist in the greater San Francisco area unless you’re willing to pay just cash or credit, as “…we don’t take health insurance.” Who does that?
So we left Cancan with our dear friend, and sped down the 101 toward the ER, fear fully enveloping our minds, tears now freely flowing down our cheeks. Suddenly, I’d do anything for this man to take his pain away, to make him stop hurting, to heal and to restore.
The hospital ushered him in to his own room within minutes – miracle of miracle – and soon he was hooked up to an IV line, and then a morphine drip, and then painkillers to make his fever go down, answering questions from the doctor and an endless entourage of nurses. I texted family and held his hand and turned on the television to whatever sports channel he wanted – and then they took him in for a CAT scan and we waited, waited, waited.
Finally the doctor came in: it was a kidney infection. Honey hadn’t been busting out his drama skills after all.
And it was like a big whoosh had been let out of our insides. We breathed a sigh of relief, because now we knew, and I squeezed his hand, not letting go for anything. I love you cell by cell,** I wanted to scream. I love you in sickness and in health, I love your past and I love your present and I love your future yet to come. And I can’t imagine this life without you, so don’t for a second scare me like that again!
We were able to leave just a couple hours later, prescriptions in hand, the slightest of skips in our step – and with new bounce in our relationship, I’d say as well.
He took two days off work and I put my chicken noodle soup skills to the test, saying Yes, dear, yes, dear, in a heartily real sort of way.
Four days later, frazzled and worn out and an hour late, I arrived at Mama’s Group. We were talking through the book One Thousand Gifts, about author Ann Vos Kamp’s thoughts on hard times: They’re inevitable. They will come – but we can still be grateful, still full of eucharisto in the midst of them.
But as one friend pointed out, there’s a difference between being grateful for the hard times, and being grateful in the hard times.
I like that. I think this past week has been one that I can point to the latter, and say, I’m not grateful for the event, but I am grateful in the event. I’m grateful for how it made me fall in love all over again with my husband. I’m grateful that it taught me how I need to put on my Big Girl Mercy Pants. I’m grateful for friends who drop everything to watch your son for four hours because they know you need them.
So we begin to learn to love, a little bit more, cell by cell, and we face the hard times not necessarily for darkness itself, but for the light that comes out of it.
And maybe that’s the whole point.
What about you? How are you grateful not necessarily for a hard time, but in a hard time? What Big Girl – or Boy – Pants do you need to put on?
* = Yelping is totally a verb. ** = Humboldt’s Gift0