In one role, I am nurse, respiratory therapist, appointment scheduler, medical researcher, and brokenhearted mom to the most precious eight-year-old girl on the planet. I wake up at least four times a night to reposition her, and spend most of the day dealing with breathing treatments, feeding tubes, and doctors.
The requirements for my other role are less taxing. I am wife to a husband I have been crazy about since the minute I met him and mom to two typical (and equally precious) kiddos.
I usually have Virginia with me most everywhere I go, but she hasn't been feeling like herself since the feeding tube. We had a neighborhood Halloween party on Saturday, and Virginia only lasted about five minutes. It was cold and windy, and she just did not want to be there. Rachel (whose sister, Lauren, worked for us for three years and whose mother is Virginia's PT and who herself is like a member of our family) took Virgina home to snuggle up and watch a movie and the rest of us stayed at the party.
It is an unusual occurrence for me to be able to talk to grown-ups while watching my kids play. Findley and I didn't have to climb into the bouncy house to jump with Virginia, and when we sat down to eat, we didn't feel guilty that she was watching without partaking.
There was a couple at our table who is new to the neighborhood. Seeing Eliza and Wills, the husband asked, "So you have two kids?"
The question was addressed to me, and for some reason, I felt tears rising up to the surface of my eyes. I am rarely at a loss for words, but I knew I couldn't explain our situation right then.
"We also have a second grade daughter," I offered. "She's around here somewhere."
Somewhere, meaning two blocks away, curled up in a babysitter's lap, watching Matilda.
Obviously, even when to the casual observer I am fully engaged in my role as 'the happy housewife', my two roles are never mutually exclusive.
Joy and suffering exist simultaneously. For all of us.
I was struck by something last weekend in Nashville. It was only the second time Findley and I have been back to Vandy since Virginia was born, so it is hard for me not to play the "last time we were here..." game. But what I realized is that I am just as happy now as I ever have been.
There is not a cloud of gloom hanging over my head on the deck at SATCO.
Over the course of my life, I have had some incredible opportunities. I have traveled to beautiful countries and been a guest at some pretty swanky hotels. Findley and I even had a stretch from March of our senior year until our honeymoon ten months later when we went to the beach eight times. This included the Bahamas, Jamaica, and the British Virgin Islands. And none of those were exactly mission trips.
And here I am now, working very hard as a round-the-clock caregiver to my precious first born. It is physically exhausting work, but sometimes the greater toll is emotional. I still escape every now and then, and honestly, a lot more than other mother's who have children like Virginia. I have an army of help, but I need it and am grateful that we can have it.
It's funny. You would think sun-soaked, college girl Abby would be happier than sleep-deprived, your-life-doesn't-look-like-what-you-thought-it-would Abby. But that's simply not the truth.
Happiness isn't dependent on external circumstances. It isn't about being skinny, well dressed, gainfully employed, and having great plans for the weekend. As hard as it is for me to admit this, it isn't even about having healthy kids.
I am certainly aware of pain that I didn't know existed a decade ago. But I am also aware that the Light is much brighter than I ever imagined it could be and it shines in even the darkest of locations.
We've been spending lots of time on the trampoline. (V got a new one for her birthday)
Mainly doing this
And not this
Virginia was in my lap on Sunday and Wills said he wanted to hold her. I think his exact words were, "I only get to love on Sissy in my lap for the Christmas picture. I promise I can hold her." And he was right.
This is the only pic of Eliza in her costume you will see. Which is unfortunate, because she is so cute in it. She hates it, even though she asked for it and told people ten times today she was going to be Pooh. She put it on for five minutes the day we got it and decided that was enough.
Wills and Findley went on a hike yesterday. Wills took so much in his backpack they would have been fine for a month.
Now that Wills is in big school, he can read to his sister. Too cute