Holding Down the Tamper on My Breaking Mommy Heart

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I woke up early today. Tiptoed downstairs. Rattled scoops of dry food into pet bowls. Slurped yogurt and crunched toast. After that I headed for the calendar, knowing I shouldn't. I couldn't help it though. The days and weeks seem to possess some crazy gravitational power. In my defense, I did white-knuckle-grip the kitchen table but in the end, the calendar won. I counted the squares -- 27. Collapsed onto a kitchen chair. Pressed a cloth handkerchief to my nose. Lately I've made sure there's one in every room.

In 27 days you, my oldest daughter, will make like John Denver and leave on a jet plane. Fly halfway around the world. For three whole months. To do good things. You'll come back for 30 or 40 days then off you'll go again. For another long, long time.

I feel as if I've been diagnosed with something awful.

"It's bad," the doctor in my mind says. "We're going to have to cut out a third of your heart. The other two thirds are fine. For now. They won't have to come out for, let's see . . . three years and seven, respectively."

After lunch I climbed the stairs. Squinted when I passed your little brother's room. He was flopped on his bed, dressed, a pillow over his face. I went to him, laid my hand on his shin. He peeked out, his eyes small and red.

"What's up, bud?"

"They wouldn't let me play Capture the Flag," he said.

I sat beside him and twirled one of his silver-blonde curls around my finger.

"I'm sorry."

"It's what's supposed to happen," I told him (and me) as I stroked his lightly furred, 10-year old limbs. "Kids grow up. They start hanging out more with friends than family. Then they go away."

He buried his face in my side. I scrunched his hair with my berry-colored fingernails."It's normal but that doesn't make it easier, does it?"

I felt his no against my ribs. We lingered there for a minute. Silent. He pillowed his face again. I patted his leg and stood.

Out in the hall my nose burned, then my eyes. It didn't take long for them to give up the tears that seem always ready these days. I know I hurt, but my little guy does too? That feels somehow heavier. My sadness plus his grief equal more.

"When you left for college, your dad got depressed."

I'd smiled when Mom told me that a few years back. "Really?"

That is so sweet. I'd put my hand over my heart. Imagined his light blue eyes. The way they almost disappeared into the nearby crowsfeet when he smiled. He loved me that much? Awww.

Now it’s happening to me. I suppose it's that whole what-goes-around-comes-around thing. I thought about it as I made my latte after lunch. I pressed hard on the tamper. "Apply approximately 30 pounds of pressure," the espresso machine directions said.

“I'd have to apply way more pressure than 30 pounds to tamp down all the stuff inside me right now,” I told the kitchen. “I'd need to practically put my whole weight to it. To hide it.”

Unhappy spill

See, I don't want you to notice how close to the surface my tears are. My fears are. Thing is, this is your time. This is the biggest, best thing you've ever done. Going south of the equator? To teach English to golden children with glossy, no moon night hair? You're looking as forward to your adventure as I am dreading it. I don't want you to worry about me. To feel guilty that I'm such a wreck.

Sometimes I step into the dining room. Gaze into the mirror over the mantle and smile. Well, I try.

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