The sound of our kids' heavy breathing fills the small hotel room. T is under the covers, smack in the middle of the other queen bed about 3 feet away, with the sheets tightly tucked between the mattress and the box to keep him from rolling out. Our little S is curled up in her sleepsack in the pack-n-play by the window, her hair tousled around her face like a protective cloud. The kids passed out immediately after a busy day of visiting old friends and jumping around in an indoor playground. When we drove into San Francisco mid-morning to meet my friend and her daughter at the Academy of Sciences, my six-year-old T, who lived in San Francisco from birth until the day after his first birthday, said, "I love visiting my old friends."
It is only 9pm, but Jeff and I are lying in the dark, whispering to each other, my head on his shoulder, warm under the cover. We hadn't had much time to talk during the day since he came on the trip for business and allowed us to tag along only if we agreed to leave him alone to work. We left him to his meetings after we grabbed my Starbucks in the lobby in the morning and returned after a giggle-filled dinner.
In the dark, we talk about anything and everything: our schedule for the week, funny things the kids said during the day, his mother's declining health.
I don't even remember what it was I said, but he tells me, "You're a better person than me."
"No, it's not true. That's not true. Why would you even say that?"
"You are a good person," he says.
"What does that even mean, to be a good person?" I ask.
"You always try to do the right thing," he says.
And at this comment, I feel my eyes well up. He doesn't see me cry, but I feel the tears roll down my face.
"But it doesn't do any good. It doesn't make any difference."
He pulls me in closer and tightens his arm around me. And by his deep breath, I know he understands.
He kisses the top of my head and says, "It'll be ok."
I lie there as his words settle around me. I recognize the weight of his efforts -- to try to fill the void that he didn't create, to help heal what he didn't damage, to try to compensate when others have failed. I think of the weight he carries for me. And I hope I have the fortitude to do the same for him when my turn comes.