Why moms do the dishes before they leave.

Several weeks ago, I was at my daughter’s house.  I went because she and her husband are teachers and my grandson was sick.  Again.  For the millionth time.  And, like lots of young couples with toddlers, they were out of sick leave.  So, I loaded up my car with the presents I had been picking up for my little guy along the way and a few fun things for his mom and dad and got ready to make the nine hour drive to where they live.  My husband was headed the opposite direction.  To Mississippi and Louisiana for work.  We kissed goodbye and went on our way.  The trip was uneventful.  Nine hours of James Michener’s Poland and wind and trucks. And, finally, I was there.  Their little white house with the green shutters and three of the people I love most in the world.  I was glad to be there.

For the first three days, I sat and rocked my sick little grand baby and let him watch every version of Hickory Dickory Dock that exists on the internet.  French. German. Disco -style.  We watched them all.  Repeatedly.  I would have done anything to make that little guy feel better.  He was feverish and croupy and miserable.  And, I was glad to be there. Glad I could take some of the pressure off of his mom and dad and let them get a week of work in without a dreaded phone call to their boss to say they would be out for the whole week. Glad to just “mom” them all for a minute.  The plan was for me to stay for two weeks and then for them to come back home with me for spring break.  We were excited about the thought of a whole week together with Pa-paw.  There would be trips to the park and dinners out and fun.  It would be family time and a way to keep my grandson out of day care for three weeks to get good and well before school started back.

During that entire two weeks, I was also watching the news.  The Covid-19 situation was ramping up.  Everyday was news about its’ spread and the tragedy that was starting to unfold.  Phone calls would go out to my husband every night.  This is scary.  I don’t think the kids should come back to Houston.  Maybe, I should come home early?  Surely this isn’t going to get as bad as they think? But it was and it did.  Finally, I made the decision to leave early.  I have Lupus and I have to give it just enough deference to keep myself healthy enough for emergency nine hour trips and grandsons who need me.  Other than that, I flip it the bird everyday. That last sentence made me smile. It’s really how I feel about the whole subject.

So, I broke the news to my kids.  I was leaving and they weren’t.  We were going to have to save our spring break for another time.  Maybe Easter. Maybe a glorious Easter by the lake–like last year.  We could hope.

Nobody was happy.  Well, maybe my son–in-law wasn’t as sad as my daughter.  Either way, I got up that last morning and saw them all off to work. I hugged my little guy’s warm little self and told him how much I loved him.  I hugged my son-in-law and admonished him to take care of everyone and I squeezed my daughter until she pulled away–much as she has been her whole life.  I waved from their front door, smiled and blew a million kisses while they backed out and until they were gone.

And then I cried.

I cried for the entire hour it took for me to pick up their house.  I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher and swept the floors.  I made the beds and picked up Everett’s toys.  I scrubbed the counters with bleach and straightened the chairs around the dining tables. It wasn’t that it was that messy–it was just that it was the last way I could “mom” them before I left.  Before I got in my car and drove away–finally acknowledging that a pandemic had come to America.  That the future was uncertain.  That there was no way to know how life was going to change.  When they came in that day, I wanted them to know a mom had been there.  Someone whose job it is to make things better.  Make the house smell good.  Sweep away dust and crumbs and mess.  Someone you can lean on.

Finally, everything was done.  I left them a little mad money where they would find it the next morning when they made coffee and a note that said “I love you so much!” and then it was time to go.  I drove the nine hours home with Poland and wind and trucks and then I was there.  With my sweet guy.  Hugging in the garage.  So glad to be together and safe.

Since then, it’s been our own little house and each other and the news.  We are self-quarantined and I have spent most of the time watching the coverage.  My heart has been shattered watching the news from Italy.  I’ve prayed for all of the truckers I saw on those two trips and resolved to do so from now on.  I’ve made all of the mixes I bought at the craft shows last Fall and I’ve watched too much dumb television.

And, through it all, I’ve wished I could make it go away.  I don’t want my friends to be scared or for doctors and nurses to be overwhelmed with what is being asked of them. I don’t want the nice man I met in the ESL class I taught to lose his restaurant.  I want everyone to be ok.  Unfortunately, I can’t fix any of it.  I can’t make any of this go away.  All I can do is the same thing I did in my daughter’s kitchen that morning while I bawled.

I can try to make things a little better.

I can mom.

So, I’ll put a teddy bear in my window for the neighborhood kids to find on their bear hunt.  I’ll call people I’m worried about.  I’ll reach for my husband’s hand while we watch TV and make him his favorites for dinner. I will make sure the underwear and socks get washed and I will remember to laugh.  I will watch for opportunities to be a helper in the world and, more than anything else,  I will pray.

Pray that the Good Lord is gearing up to mom us all.  To sweep away the mess and restore order.  To straighten what has been knocked over and to allow us to come home one day and find our little corner of the world has been put to rights.  That maybe He has a beautiful Easter planned for us.  And, that if that is not the case, that it will be ok anyway. That, throughout this chaos, we will feel gathered up and protected and restored. That we will continually find little gifts hidden in our lives straight from Him to say I love you so much.  A little mad money for the future.

The future when we have come through this.  When stores are open and I can go buy a pizza and joke with my waiter.  A future when I am, once again, in my church with my hands raised praising God for his blessings.  A future when Easter baskets are being planned for.  A future when my kids ring my doorbell and come through that door in a rush of luggage, and noise and excited dogs.  A future where I am squeezing my daughter until she pulls away.  When that day comes, my house will be ready.  There will be something that smells good cooking and maybe a puzzle ready for the kids.  There will be clean underwear and socks and toys placed in my grandson’s cabinet.  I will be there too.  In the middle of it all.  Making a grocery list and ready to mom.  And, I will be glad to be there.

I love you world.  There is a lady in Houston praying for all of you and ready to mom if you need me.