|Photo by R. Donovan|
The commotion didn’t bother her, as it might have in her younger days, when all she desired was solace from her children’s endless demands. Now she found the dull hum of background noise a comforting and companionable reminder of the hectic life she once lived.
It had been five years since Charles had passed away, and some days she still had to remind herself that he was gone. She found herself wanting to ask him a question about football or insurance premiums, and then she’d look up and realize there was no one to ask.
She could call Jay, who lived in South Carolina, but she wouldn’t dream of disrupting her son’s busy day with patients or his treasured evenings with his family, for such trivial matters. She could email Sally, in California, but she wouldn’t want to chance interrupting her daughter during a client meeting or, heaven forbid, an actual date.
It seemed like a lifetime ago that those two were little ones under her feet, playing and squabbling, their six year age difference making Sally more mother than sister. And there were many times Sally tended to her younger brother and comforted him when he needed it. Sometimes, Sally was the only one who could calm him when their mother lost her temper and raised her voice to them.
Regret is a terrible thing. It can sneak up on you and steal your joy without notice. And maybe if she had possessed the foresight to know it wouldn’t always be so hard, they wouldn’t always need her so much, and someday she would actually miss all that needing. Well, maybe she wouldn’t have been so desperately fighting for air.
She considered this now, as she watched the droves of children hanging on their mothers, whining for a snack or proclaiming that something wasn’t fair. One young mother, in particular, caught her attention. The woman sent her two children off with her husband, she presumed, after slathering them with sunscreen, and insisting they both wear hats.
As the mother collapsed onto a cushioned lounge chair and cradled her drink, she watched intently. The woman heaved a sigh of relief, and she exhaled with her. She sipped the light green concoction, and she could taste the tart sweetness, right along beside her.
She’d been in those shoes many times and remembered the relief that descended when left to your own devices, for even a mere fifteen minutes.
And as she sat here alone, so many years later, she wished she had believed that the day would, in fact, come when she craved that chaos and all that needing.
It was an essential piece of who she was, and she wasn’t whole without it.