These past few weeks have been particularly stressful. Not “bringing home tongue-tied newborn to temperamental toddler” stressful; more like “this job sucks but at least it’s temporary” stress plus “I really hope the pregnancy test is negative” worry. But still a large amount of suckage.

It started with Nora being out of school for spring break for the week, the kids adjusting to their first nanny, and then finding out my mother had pneumonia, again. Nothing forces you to be a grown up more than being a parent and caretaker. I find myself forgetting to shower but able to rattle off other people’s identity information like a favorite poem.

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So as I stood massaging my mother’s feet while humming operas to her as she lulls to sleep in her stultifyingly hot room in a two-bit hee-haw hospital. I think to myself, “Please be well, please get better. PLEASE stop smoking!!….Did I buy Easter stuff for Nora? Oh shit, I need to buy stuff for the KIDS, plural!…I’m not old enough to be a grown up…fuck, we need groceries.”

The lavender lotion I brought improves the mood and clears my sinuses of the burnt coffee, urine, and chemical cleansers assaulting my senses. “She’s going to be ok,” I remind myself as her oxygen machine beeps and I listen to her labored breathing. Her color has improved to what I remember from fifteen years ago. Fifteen years. I’ll be forty this year but, if you ask me my age offhand, I struggle to remember that and feel no more than twenty at times. My body feels like I should be rooming in with my mom at the moment. I keep reaching up to take off my hat that isn’t there because my head is sweating and my hair is so dirty I feel like I have a swim cap on.

My mom is released a few days later to my care after a daily commute from Portland to Oregon City, a lot of evening meltdowns from the boob-barnacle-baby, and way too many purchases of fast food. The 4 year old is constipated from a diet of pizza and cheese flavored crackers, my husband looks like he’s been camping for over a week, the baby glares at me, and our basement now looks like a cross between a hospital room and a welfare-grade Gymboree. It’s like a playroom equipped from a yard sale hosted by a Jerry’s Kids fundraiser.

We all have done our best to get well, stay well, and have fun.

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Mom has quit smoking. I KNOW!!! Fifty-two years of smoking and she’s given it up. We’re so proud of her and relieved. Her lungs will never be the same but we hope we have more years with her that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Nora asked her if she was sick and informed her, “Don’t be dead, grandma.” I spoke with Nora later and explained that grandma is sick but getting better. She asked me if it was because grandma was old and I said it was because she smoked and her body caught a germ, a virus. She persisted and wondered aloud if she could catch the same germ. I reassured her that any germs that she could catch her body would fight off much easier than grandma and I because grownups bodies take longer to heal. She patted my back as we hugged and said, “I don’t wanna’ grow up.” Oh, ain’t that the truth. Please let her keep thinking that a little longer.

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