When we awoke, it was a day like any other. Little T ran into our room, screaming, "I'm awake! Mommy, Daddy, I'm awake. It's morning time!" In spurts from her crib, Little S cried "mamamamamama, mamamamama," until Jeff crawled out of bed and picked her up. When I managed to drag myself out from under the cover, T wrapped himself around my arm and screamed, "Mommy, I want to be with you, I want to be with you!" as he smothered me with open mouthed kisses. I pried myself loose and ran downstairs to grab some milk for S and headed back up. After the milk, the change of diaper, the pee-pee on the potty, the undressing of pajamas and then the dressing into the day's outfit, after a discussion on whether it was a school day or a swim class day, we all scurried downstairs. After Jeff burned the frozen waffles and made another for T, after S nibbled on prunes and kiwi to make her business a little less unpleasant, I took my shower. Then I ran into the garage to unload the laundry dried the night before and to load yet another load in our never-ending cycle of laundry. When I turned with my basket in hand, I noticed a stack of plastic bins leaning, threatening to crush us, and I called Jeff into the garage to rearrange the plastic bins to remove the one with the broken lid on the bottom and set them straight. After the rearranging, we made plans to go out for lunch. Then, Jeff hurried out to take T to his morning swim class while I cleaned the smeared fruit off of S's face.
When Jeff and T returned, I loaded the kids into the car to go to playgroup. At E's house, we nibbled on snacks, chatted with other moms and cooed at other babies, rubbed smeared paint off of T and S as they expressed their artistic inclinations at the craft table. After the hour passed in what seemed like minutes, I hurried out with the kids to try to make it home in time to meet Jeff as we had planned. In the car, I checked my phone and noticed his email, canceling our lunch, explaining that he needed to take Sherlock to the vet for a follow up exam, that it wasn't looking good.
I drove around with the kids strapped in their carseats, little S fast asleep, T prattling on as he always does. We headed for the McDonalds drive thru, where I could feed T his lunch without disrupting little S's nap. After debating the disadvantages of the cheeseburger versus the chicken mcnuggets, we settled on the cheeseburger, which he promptly decided not to eat after poking five holes through the buns because he found the cheese not to his liking, although he ate the apple slices and drank the milk. I drove us back home and finally, impatient, and unable to entertain T any longer, I awoke S from her nap and herded us inside. After some playing with legos and magna tiles and tea sets, T fell asleep after I bribed him with an after-nap movie.
Three hours later, Jeff still wasn't home, and I left him a voicemail and a text, wondering what the hell was taking so long. S and I flipped through fourteen different board books, pointing at dog, dog, ruff, ruff, kitty, kitty, meow, meow, and duck, duck, quack, quack. I refilled the ball popper again and again as she giggled and bounced up and down in delight. We walked around the living room and then through the kitchen, and then through the living room again, with her soft tiny hand wrapped around my index finger. I wedged myself between her and the garbage drawer where she likes to practice her newly discovered hobby of throwing tissues away, after daintily dabbing away at her little mouth, me hoping she would never discover the crushing pain of closing doors.
As we took yet another turn around the living room, I heard the gate squeak open, and I scooped S up and headed to the front door. There I saw Sherlock lingering around his dog house next to the bowl of dry food still left uneaten, his belly shaven of fur in a large rectangular patch the size of a laptop, and no sight of Jeff. Still carrying S, I walked out the front door, toward the front gate when I saw Jeff come out from behind the garage where he had been throwing something out. He saw me, came up the three steps into our front yard, and standing with his hand extended to steady the swinging gate, said with an attempted smile, "I took him for a swim," pointing at Sherlock. "How did it go? Did the vet figure out what's wrong?" I asked. And he looked up once again and looked back down, with his hand still on the gate, as he said, "So, he has cancer. They did all the tests and the ultrasound showed the lumps and they're pretty sure that's what it is. And we can do chemo but it's eight thousand dollars and it may or may not give him another six months and I always thought it made no sense for dogs when there are kids out there who can't get treatment and maybe we just donate that money where it can be used for a kid. They think he has a few weeks left, but they have some steroid treatment they can try..." And he kept talking as if he were afraid to stop talking, afraid to take a breath, afraid to let the words run out. And as he talked, my ears must have gotten stuck many words ago, right around the beginning when he said the word cancer and a part of my brain must have been trying to process it because I stood very still as the word began to sink in. And I felt myself starting to crumble. It was as if someone had injected me with some narcotic, making my body feel heavy, weighted, overtaken by emotion and tears that just sprang out of nowhere, and I started crying and Jeff said, "You're going to make me cry now." I reached out and we held each other with S in between us, in front of the gate, both of us leaning in to each other and staring at Sherlock through our tears.