“The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
The way you live, the gifts that you give
In the fullness of time,
It's the only return that you expect…”
—Neil Peart, Rush, The Garden
They're still young. I'm not getting any younger.
Oh, and there's the count. Always there's a count. The count is important because, while it's always the same count from me, it's their opportunity for creative variation.
Every night the Mama says, "Girls, you want a swing?"
Beatrice is usually first. Not because she's oldest or for any other particular reason other than she's the one who falls asleep the fastest of the two. Bryce's fire can take another 30 to 45 minutes to put out, something the Mama is painfully aware of and deals with every night.
Beatrice always has to hold one of her stuffed animals when I swing her. She'll then stand up straight and I pick her up in my arms. Mercy me, she's a big girl now, being in the 95th percentile of height and weight for her age, so I really have to be careful for me.
The swinging commences, more of a simple swaying in my arms as I count.
"One...what's after one?" I ask, in synch with the sway.
"Two," Bea answers. Sway.
"Two...what's after two?" Sway.
"Three...what's after three?" Sway.
Sway. Launch. Land on the bed.
The answer is always different on four, whatever's top of mind for either of them, an outlet to get the sillies out. After Bea, Bryce gets her swing, and it's like picking up a feather compared to Bea. Bryce is on the other end of the developmental scale. She's quite healthy, just much more of a light sprite.
After launching them both on their respective beds, Mama takes over and tucks them in and wraps up bedtime. I go downstairs and am left to my own devices, literally and figuratively, sometimes working or reading, sometimes playing on Facebook. But sometimes the physics around me manifest into physical spirals, swirls and sways, and time circles back on itself.
Beatrice's birthday is two days away. Bryce's was last month. I reminisce their birth stories, Beatrice's being much more dramatic than Bryce's, but I remember the first time I held each girl in my arms, the sway and the coo. The feeling that this is the very beginning of time, their time, and in those moments nothing could steal that away. I remember gently handing each girl back to the Mama (no launching yet) and thinking, What a difference a life makes.
They're still young. I'm not getting any younger. I wonder about the sway of the next 30 years...
Time circles back again and it's last month three years ago. My dad is dying of stage 3 melanoma. He decides he no longer wants experimental chemotherapy and we bring in hospice. In less than one week he goes from lucid levity and walking on his own to being unable to talk or walk. His body weight has dropped dramatically and it's now only a matter of time. It always is.
He points weakly to the bathroom. I know he has to go so I put his left arm around my neck and walk-carry him to the bathroom.
The first few feet are fine and all I can think about is how he's let himself be helped in this way, how he's surrendered to his failed body, to his son, to his God. The peace he's made with it all, it now spirals, swirls and sways around us as we finally reach the bathroom. He looks at me and smiles weakly. We're both exhausted. What a difference 10 feet makes. Two days later he was gone.
Time circles back again. We're still young. I can still swing my girls every night and launch them into slumberland. The Mama still takes over and tucks them in.
Three...what's after three?
Whatever we want it to B.