I sat in the dark auditorium with Dozier seated directly in front of me and Scout in my lap. They were midway through the Eufaula High School’s production of Charlotte’s Web when Scout announced, “I hope we get to see ’em turn Wilbur into bacon!”
The waitress placed the bill on the table along with three fortune cookies.
Dozier: “I hope this fortune is better than the last one I got.”
Me: “What was the last one?”
Dozier: “It told me to focus on the color yellow and I would find luck.”
Me: “What happened?”
Dozier: “I had to pee in the middle of a football game.”
Scout: “Mine told me to stop looking and I would find what I was seeking. It took two years, but I finally found that game I was looking for.”
Me: “What does this one say?”
Dozier: “Your talents will be recognized and rewarded. Pfft! Tell me something I don’t know.”
Me: “Read Scout’s.”
Dozier: “Giving to charity will give you pleasure.”
Scout: “What’s charity?”
Dozier: “It means give something to people less fortunate. Hey, why don’t you give them that game you found?”
Scout: “I don’t think so. The last time I did what the stupid cookie told me to do I went two years without my favorite game.”
Dozier: “What’s yours say, Mom?”
Me: “Focus on the color purple and you will find luck.”
Dozier: “Eww….purple. That can’t be good.”
I found myself in a sudden onset of pure desperation. The children yelled and ran and laughed but they were a silent slow-motion blur moving around me; hardly discernible in my peripheral vision. It was past their bedtime, but I didn’t care. When the phone rang, I didn’t have to look at the screen to confirm it was you. I almost ignored it, but to let it ring seemed like lying to you. Life was in the way again. There was so much to say but no real reason to say it. There were no goals. No anticipated event to signify the fruition of dreams. When I was a kid in school, I would mark through the day on a calendar before I went to bed each night. I counted down the days until summers and birthdays and graduations and weddings and babies and moves and all the milestones that people celebrate with generic Hallmark cards. I realized the other day that I was still marking off days on the calendar, but even though I struck through each day, each month; when I got to the end, I simply turned the page and continued the process. I wasn’t looking forward to anything. There was no destination. There were no dreams. I wondered when that happened. I wondered when I had become satisfied with merely existing, or rather when I had settled for dissatisfaction. I became desperate. My stomach was hollow and my throat began to swell. And then sadness swept over me like a veil of smoke from a cigarette. In that moment it occurred to me that I wasn’t out of sorts because I was no longer clinging to impossible dreams. I was sad because I realized that I no longer found those fantasies worth pursuing.
We lay next to each other in the dark. I didn’t have to open my eyes to see his profile. It was forever etched in my brain. The only sound was that of our breathing slowly synchronizing. I could feel his hot breath on my face. As he stroked my fingers with his little hands, tears silently rolled over my cheek and fell to the pillow. He was almost asleep now. His hand on mine slowed to a stop. He would never know I was crying as he drifted off to dreamland. There in one of my favorite places; the comfort of complete acceptance and unconditional love, it hit me. I realized like never before that I was preparing him to leave me. Every action and word and worry was shaping his future; his departure from me. I squeezed my eyes closed tighter and more tears slipped from the corners and over my nose, eventually finding the pillow below my head. I prayed that he would find the happiness that had eluded me. I prayed that when his children one day left him to find their own way in the world, that he was still left with a hand to hold. As cynical as I am, I still cry when I watch romantic comedies. I still think stupid movies where the girl and the guy fall in love in fifteen seconds and overcome all odds to be together are great, and I will watch them over and over again and smile and cry and sigh and snuggle in my bed and daydream while I hug my pillow before I fall asleep. I can’t think of a more pitiful way to go; dying while holding a pillow. For now, I will clutch that little hand. I will bask in the warmth of his breath. I will take comfort in the lullaby of his subtle snoring that drifts across the hall throughout the night. And when the time comes, I will watch him go. And I will take the pillow from his bed and breathe in his scent as I drift into my own dreams; dreams of when my children were snuggled next to me, dreams of past ambitions and memories of romantic comedies that played out on the screen before me.
During a commercial for Worst Cooks in America on the Food Network, Dozier turned and looked at me.
Dozier: “I’m not saying you should enter that, but your chicken needs work.”
Me: “I’m going to watch the Bachelor tonight.”
Dozier: “That’s just wrong, Mom! I was joking.”
Me: “You should always think before you speak. The Bachelor will teach you that.”
Dozier: “This is torture.”
As he walked away I smiled. He would leave me alone for hours.