On Friday night Grace was sleeping over at a friend’s house and Matt was out, so Whit and I had dinner together. He picked a single daffodil from our back yard (the single daffodil in our back yard) and put it in a small vase for a centerpiece. We sat down to a table set for two, with napkins and silver, and ate some lasagna that Grace had made the night before.
“This is good,” Whit said between bites. “But if you made it would be better.”
“Well, it would be full of love.” He chewed.
“I think Anastasia and Grace put love into this lasagna, Whit.”
“Yes,” he looked me right in the eye, and said without a hint of guile, “but your food has more love than anyone else’s in it.”
Saturday morning, before hockey practice, Whit was milling around our room in his long johns. I was still lying in bed. He climbed in next to me, nestling under the covers and curling his body against mine. I reached out and pulled him to me, noticing again how lean he is now, all long planes and sharp angles. I could smell the back of his neck, could see the pale blond fluff where his hair ends and his skin begins. Matt looked over at us. “What are you doing?”
“Snuggling with Mummy,” Whit answered.
“Whit, you can bet Zdeno Chara doesn’t cuddle with his mother before he practices.”
I glared at Matt. “Who cares? I bet he used to.”
“Yeah, Daddy,” Whit mumbled. “Who cares?”
Still, my eyes blurred as I held my son against me, my awareness of how numbered these days are so piercing I couldn’t have spoken without sobbing. It won’t be long until my 7 year old son wouldn’t be caught dead snuggling, much less seeks my embrace out. Before I know it a Friday night dinner with his mother won’t be the cause of major excitement. I am sure I will remember that single daffodil, leaning in its overly big vase, with heartache. It’s still fresh and yellow down there in the kitchen, and I’m already mourning it.
There’s no question I’ve found the story I can’t stop telling, the drum I’ll beat for the rest of my life. Yes, as I’ve said, my subject chose me. This way heartbreak and joy are woven into every moment of every day. They are the two walls of this hall we walk down, one at a time, this life, these years. When I stare at the back of Whit’s neck I fall into the chasm of memory. Images of his infant neck and all the years in between telescope and I feel a kind of vertigo. The speed with which it passes is simply breathtaking, and the immensity of the miracle of another human being overwhelms me utterly.
“It’s time to go, Whit. Let’s get your pads on.” Matt called over his shoulder as he left the room. I glanced one final time at the back of Whit’s neck, squeezed his still-birdlike shoulders, and I let him go.