We are back in the swing of things. Once again we sit at the table and complete math pages. We make our beds, conjugate verbs, fill up the dog bowls. The arrhythmia of Fall break has corrected itself and our daily heartbeats are steady now.
My favorite time of the day is something I call Morning Time. I bummed it off of Cindy Rawlins, who’s done things I haven’t, better things, with more kids. Morning Time in our house consists of a short Bible reading, followed by discussion, memory work, and prayer. From there we move on to poetry readings. I love a good, solid line from a poem about something. I love it so much that I think I’ve made my kids love it, too. Or they’re faking to hurry things along. It could be that.
After poetry I read to them a chapter from a work of fiction. Sometimes it’s a collection of short stories (I recently read some of Canterbury Tales to them but left out a few, er, things). But mostly it’s a novel. We finished Old Yeller the other day, barely. I say this because I started choke-crying during the first half of the second-to-last-chapter. Travis hadn’t even shot his dog yet. I sat on my bed, blotchy-skinned, hair in pillow clumps, and gagged out story words from behind a balled up fist for fourteen pages.
Even as it happened (because I float above my body and observe myself now and again) I knew it was probably unnerving for my kids to see me crying as if my heart would break, crying like I did when I was twelve and grief was its own sort of pleasure. Still, I could not stop.
In due time each one of my children began crying, too, including the thirteen-year-old boy. They wiped their eyes and buried their heads in my bedspread as Travis ended the life of the dog who had saved his. When it was over we sat in silence. We were Travis, and we couldn’t believe we’d erased our old friend like he was nothing.
“Are you going to be OK, Mom?” my middle son asked after a while.
“No,” I replied. “I mean, in the long run, yes. Short term, no.”
“I feel bad,” he said, “even though I knew how it was going to end.”
“Isn’t that just the way death is?” I rubbed my right eye with my ring finger so as to not further discourage the skin around it.
“But, you know what?” I said, straightening, “it was worth it. That was a beautiful story, well-told. It truly hurt, and I’m impressed by that. It’s worth the ache in our chests, isn’t it?” I rested my hand on his bony shoulder.
“Yeah. I guess you’re right,” he muttered and stood up from his place on my bed.
I watched him leave the room. I thought about how I meant what I said. It was worth it. Is worth it. I’ve already accumulated a list of regrets in my life, things not done, words spoken in haste. But sharing these stories with my children, these exquisite labyrinths, is not one of them. I’ll never regret the fleeting moments when we sobbed and laughed at the written word in the quiet of my bedroom.
I trust they won’t, either.