The baby and I wait in the high school parking lot as school lets out. Upperclassmen head to their cars. Several of Jack's friends hop in together and pull away. One has a beard.
Our windows are down because the A/C is broken, and for some reason it's 80 degrees in late October. When the crying starts, everyone can hear it. I feel a bit like a freak. I'm the lady with the dead son and the new baby who is doing everything she can not to embarrass her living teenager in the high school lot. I stand outside the car in my too-short shorts and grungy t-shirt, and try to entertain him.
Little guy has been sick all week and has been a big ball of misery and need. Really, he's been sick on and off for a month, and his discomfort and our lack of sleep is wearing us down. Margaret sleeps on the floor of the basement to get away from the noise, and Tim and I take turns walking and suctioning and comforting.
We don't want Margaret to feel like she can't ask for help, like this ride, just because we have a baby now, so Andrew and I wait.
I try not to play the game of should's. Jack should be driving Margaret home! This should be his senior year! There should be more noise in our house, but not necessarily of the crying variety!
It's all so very disappointing.
It's not like I haven't known disappointment, with the early loss of my mother, and the surrendering of so many plans. One of the greatest disappointments of my adult life was not being able to purchase my family home when Tim and I got married. The timing and numbers just didn't work out. I was supporting Tim on my teacher's salary while he finished law school. Within just two years, we could have afforded the mortgage and then some, raising our kids across the street from the elementary school, just a short walk from the community pool. I so wanted to hang on to that drafty old house with the tin roof, and build a family in what I considered the best place on earth to grow up.
It's hard not to think that if we had somehow managed to buy that house, Jack would have lived. The kids would be at a different high school across town right now. And I wouldn't be sweating it out in this parking lot.
The crying continues. Is that poop oozing up Andrew's onesie? I free him from his carseat to change him on the front seat. As I do, I feel something on my leg. The irony is not lost on me that as I change his diaper-- and the poop that somehow ends up on his neck and his hair-- that I've just started my period, and have no way of taking care of my own personal hygiene.
Once you start guessing about the little things and the big, the questions get more cosmic than earthy like diapers and blood. If a soul is meant to live here just a limited time before going on to the next phase, if our days are truly numbered in His book, would it have mattered if we'd lived across town on our own little acre, away from the storm, away from the creek? Or, would Jack's soul have crash landed into his destiny and found another way?
I don't know.
But I do know that I am at my best when I am grateful. Grateful for the time I did get to spend in the house that built me. Grateful for the chubby baby born out of sorrow, beating so many odds already in his life. Grateful for 12 years with Jack's physical presence, and grateful for the knowledge that our relationship continues. Grateful the the upperclassmen eventually empty the lot and I can hold and bounce Andrew, now clad in nothing but a diaper, until Margaret appears. And grateful for a teenager, who probably had a lot of her own stuff to deal with during this long day, who sees my wet eyes behind my sunglasses, and offers to bring Andrew into the house when we get home, so I can go to the bathroom in peace.