I feel very fragile lately.
I have been fragile for years, but it was a moment of clarity and surprise when a medical assistant shook her head and said so to me.
You’re so fragile.
The idea was foreign to me. I was the girl who dug trenches in hard, red clay to bury water lines, planted gardens and carried heavy loads. The girl who bathed dogs and people and wiped up vomit from the floor.
When she told me I was fragile, I laughed.
Who has time for that?
Now I have time. I’m not a girl anymore.
It’s a strange place, but not bad. Tears dampen my cheeks almost daily. But what days they are.
My daughter comes in from a trip to the movies.
“Bree asked me if I was a daddy’s girl.” She bites her bottom lip, trying to hide a smile. She looks at me from underneath her lashes but I can see her eyes, the way they shine. “I told her yes.”
And here I go again, wiping my eyes with a tissue.
My middle boy, the one who drives me crazy, the one too much like me and too much like his father, says to his little brother who is now a man, “I am proud of you.”
Their conversation continues to flow around me while I am stayed, becalmed in the current, bathing in that singular moment, hardly able to breathe and not really caring if I ever do again.
I cry at the note taped to the television, “Watch anime with me,” and at the memory of how he always laughs at my lame joke about anime and anemone. An invitation into his world is a prize. This is not a carnival prize, but a gold medal prize to be carried and worn over the heart.
My husband comes in, weary from work but too stubborn to admit it. He stands, reading the endless to-do list on the refrigerator. When I see him with the youngest man-child and get a glimpse of the crazy, terrorizing love that comes with being this boy’s father, the wild rawness, the manliness of it, moves me.
Against such things it’s hard to keep fists clenched tight around the small threads of bitterness gathered up over days and years. Maybe that is where the salt for all these tears was being held, waiting for release.
There are always ready tears for my eldest, who does nothing to make me cry, and so I do. What can I say? Mothers understand.
It took a long time to get here. I always, always knew it was all worth it. All the books and articles and wise women said so.
So the fragile girl laughed and wiped up vomit and held tight to little (and not-so-little) hands whether they wanted it or not. She waited by the phone and did not yell. She saved her keening for another day and stood as tall as five foot something allowed. Love made her strong.
It’s not a bad place. Not a bad place at all.
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