Sometime in the brand new year, I fished out a sock from the washer. It wasn’t my sock. None of my kids had this sock. There was only one. It was black with red roses.
I knew the type of woman who wore this sock. In the fall, I had gone to DC to reconnect with friends and I immediately realized that I did not wear the city girl uniform. I didn’t have a smart blazer, slim bootcut jeans and high heel black boots that announced when you walk in the restaurant. (I wore cuffed jeans and black patent clogs with a jaunty sweater. Nothing about my fashion was smart or slim.) This sock went under black boots. I didn’t own black boots.
As I held this sock, I knew something was really wrong. Chad must be having an affair. I will be alone. I am alone. I can’t. Addy has anorexia and Mim has everything Mim has- cerebral palsy, developmental delays, not walking, not saying words, lead poisoning, not sleeping, low vision and tons of therapies. Tuck is mildly misbehaving in middle school. George is scared and quiet for his sister. BeBe is taking over the oldest spot so Addy can be the sick one. Dolly is just a first grader learning to read. How does he have time for an affair?
Addy had been moved from Emory hospital where “they aren’t very good with anorexia” to a big hospital in rural Wisconsin that was one of the very few in the country that took kids as young as thirteen for things like OCD or eating disorders. Emory stabilized her heart and Wisconsin took over for months. I missed Addy terribly. She froze in Atlanta. How would she survive in Wisconsin?
She was so sick. I hadn’t seen her personality in 5 months. I missed her sunshine. I missed her life I missed her shoulders and belly that could piggy back her brothers and sisters. I missed her sun kissed skin color which had gone to gray. I missed her blue eyes that stayed closed more and more. I missed her luscious hair all long and shiny with curls annoying her. I missed her vigor and her insistence at using inappropriate jokes to shock us all in to laughter. I missed how she would make up stories to tell the kids on car rides and hikes. I missed her singing to the radio with such a joyful sound when she matched the notes of Taylor Swift. I even missed the full days and nights of lying next to her in the hospital. Chad hadn’t spent the night in the hospital. I was truly afraid and alone in the hospital on those early January nights. Listening to unfamiliar beeping while people in scrubs came in and out. Her heartbeat was too low to register on the machine so it beeped constantly. I barely knew enough to know how scared to be. I knew when the number was in the teens, less people came in. When the number got under 10, a lot of people arrived.
My babies. My babies. My world. How can I survive? I was not going to survive Addy’s death so she had to live. I needed her. Our family needed her. How can the world go on, if I don’t have Addy.
People told me not to post this stuff- don’t tell people that Addy is sick. It is a private matter for your family, not something for Facebook. I was alone. It felt like cancer would have been better. People would have brought casseroles and lasagnas for my kids to eat one bite of and then eat cereal for dinner. Chad would have come to the hospital. Friends would have held us up. Instead I was deeply separated from the world and the silence that people advised impressed upon me that I should be ashamed.
My aloneness was confirmed as I examined the sock. Hoping with my last one percent of hope that the sock was familiar.
When Chad came home from work, I explained. -I took your dirty laundry bag from the hotel, the plastic white kind that bursts easily, and I dumped the contents into the washer. When I took your clothes from the washer to the dryer, I saw the sock. It is black with a rose. Whose sock is it? Are you having an affair?
He couldn’t believe my hypothesis. He smiled and hugged me and reassured my worried heart. This could be anyone’s sock. This could be your cousins’ sock. It just got mixed in with my laundry. He pushed the hair from my forehead. He kissed me sweetly. He smiled and bent his knees to look straight into my eyes and I felt love and relief.
That night before bed, we snuggled and whisper laughed (we didn’t want to wake Mim). With all the stress of Addy’s disease and the extra stuff that comes along in a regular day with kids- “can you believe I could have doubted you?” I think I apologized. “I’m so sorry. I am crazy. Stress can make me do some crazy things.”
A child with a life threatening disease changed everything I ever knew to be true.