Last night at 1am in our bathroom: Very Loud Thump and "aaaaa" (my voice).
"What happened?" coughed not-really-awake Jim.
"I just slipped in his pee and----" I was too pre-occupied to offer more of an explanation to Jim's "you okay?". I was holding onto Charlie, who had also slipped to his knees but stayed sound asleep. I had found his bed and him soaking wet and had stripped off the soggy blankets and sheets and deposited them into the laundry basket. Then I went back to bring Charlie to the bathroom, and then we both hit the lineoleum.
Jim and Charlie spent the day convalescing together. "He made it easy," said Jim. Charlie crawled into our bed and whispered "Bye Mom," then came downstairs, ate an apple, and went back to sleep.They went to Walgreen's for medicine and sodas.
I had a tutorial with a student on Greek literature; we have been reading the contemporaries of Homer (8th century B.C.), Hesiod and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. In the hymn, Demeter's maiden daughter Persephone is "snatched" from a meadow by Hades, god of the Underworld. Demeter wanders the earth in search of her missing child, only to find her in the dark Underworld, and only to learn that Persephone can only dwell with her for part of the year, as the girl has eaten some of the seeds of a pomegranate.
The myth tells the origins of the seasons: It is winter and autumn when Persephone is with Hades and Demeter mourns and hides her head, and summer and spring when her daughter is back with her. But I also read the myth as a story about the loss of a child, of grief and mother-ache (and father's, too). What end of the earth would we not search to bring back our lost child? Our sick child, our child in waiting for healing and coming back home?
When I got home, Charlie had set a silver baking pan on the table. "Fresnss fwies,", with a pleading quiver to his lips. "Burger," he requested. "I want knife fork. Barn p'ate." He ate with great seriousness as I noted how his eyes seemed hollowed out. Then he ran to sit near Jim and demanded "Charlie computah, turn on!"
"Want to see the photos?" asked Jim and Charlie climbed into his lap. Jim noticed that he was tapping the table in a repetitive way: "He's pretending to type!"
After Jim went to visit his parents in the hospital, Charlie grew quieter. He stood with his face over the steam from the vaporizer and curled up in the dog sleeping bag and was so quiet I thought he might be asleep. He was hot and wanted ice cubes and water, and then became quite chatty over a bit of white rice. "Aunty Kathy!"
"You've got to get better before you can see Aunty Kathy," I said. Charlie with his face on his empty plate, raised his head and cried for a few seconds. "You'll get better. You're getting better!" I smiled. A few minutes later, he requested a shower and then went straight to bed.
"Schoolbus?" We asked.
"Yes," with just an edge of yearning.
"Get better to ride the schoolbus tomorrow, right, little sonny?" said Jim and patted Charlie wrapped tight in Daddy's blue blanket.
As a child, I used to have asthma so bad that it was not unheard of for me to miss a third of the school year. I hated missing school; I loved to be in the classroom. For the past years, I have sighed to myself, how different Charlie is from me indeed, as he often made clear his desire not to go to school and recoiled at the mention of "school" on the weekend. But this new affection for the bus and school and everyone in it is beyond familiar with me. It is me.
It's the feeling of home, that familiarity, and that unconditional love that once sent a mother down to the Underworld, to turn grief into springtime sunshine, meadows with good-smelling flowers, and food for all of humankind; to bring her child back home.