Saturday morning, after a rough night’s sleep, I checked my email and saw that Jay’s soccer game was at 9am, not 10:30am as we’d assumed. We scrambled to get ready and made it to the field in time. The game was similar to last week’s for Jay—stout defense, a few goals, and intermittent tears. I was able to back off emotionally from what Jay was doing just enough to notice that the experience was hard for another father, too. Next to us on the sideline there was a three-year-old boy, shirtless, who refused to put on his jersey or enter the game. “You’re acting like a baby. Be a big boy,” his dad said to him, in a low, disdainful whisper.
After the game we drifted through the day. Jay was in a mood, not uncommon these days, where he seems to do nothing but whine. Wally, who’s not much of a whiner but who does like to cause trouble, alternated between poking Jay and emptying dirty silverware from the dishwasher. I retreated into trimming the bushes on the side of our house. Caroline brought up going to the tailor. We all had things we’d rather be doing, places we’d rather be.
As I lopped branches, I thought about a dream I’d had the night before. It started with me and Caroline on the top floor of a building in a strong storm. The building broke loose in the gale, we fell towards the ground, and knew we were about to die. I had time to think, “At long last, it’s finally here.” My last thought was about Jay and Wally, and then we hit the ground.
The dream continued on the other side of life. I forget the plot, but the feeling of the dream is what matters most. Caroline and I walked around together in this new world, desperate in the knowledge that Jay and Wally were still alive but we were completely unable to reach them.
I overpruned our bushes and then we decided to take a walk, to get a gallon of milk and maybe something for lunch. Caroline pushed Wally on his tricycle and Jay stayed a block ahead of us on his balance bike. Eventually the grocery store came into view and there was a festival in its parking lot—balloon animals, a bounce house, pottery demonstrations. The boys ran like it was Christmas. Caroline and I watched—not with joy, exactly, but with a thin kind of happiness to have stumbled onto an easy way to pass an hour of the day.
And so the rest of the day went from there—lunch, quiet time, popsicles in the backyard, pirates on the swingset, a TV show, dinner, bath, bed. The boys had not been asleep long when Caroline and I went upstairs to bed ourselves.
As we settled in beside each other, it was hard to account for the day that had passed, hard not to feel that we were back where we’d been all along, poised for sleep, or that we were already waking up and it was tomorrow. But before we fell asleep we had time to talk, about how the biggest struggles are to recognize the smallest things: How many days will we all have together?