One of the funniest moments in our marriage, at least in hindsight, was when I came home form work one day to find Emmett lying on the couch eating ice cream and watching Oprah. I promised not to tell that story while he was alive, but I suppose I can freely share now! We had just moved into our house and he was still working at Starbucks, where his ring had slipped off unnoticed. Although it was found lurking between packets of artificial sweeteners later that week, Emmett had come home crushed and deflated. But when I walked in and he explained everything to me as if confessing a murder, all I could say was, "You finally get it! This is the exact feeling I've been trying to describe to you for years! The "I-want-to-crawl-under-a-rock-and-wither-away-but-since-that's-not-an-option-I'll just-overdose-on-ice-cream-and-bad-tv" feeling!"
Emmett was a little taken aback by my lack of concern for his wedding ring, but it was a complete break through in our marriage communication. To my knowledge he never had another "ice cream and Oprah" moment, but from them on, that phrase was all I had to say on a bad day, and he knew exactly how I felt. It was amazing.
But boy have I had a week of "ice cream and Oprah" days.
Although the holidays were lovely, I had approached this particular new year with a sense of dread. Just like the coming of 2011, I did not feel ready to accept the changes that the last year had brought to my life. The turn of year gave those changes a piercing clarity that I can ignore most days.
But I underestimated how much Quinn would feel the change. I'm not sure why Quinn feels the absence of his father so acutely right now, but he has been peppering me with questions. He told me the other day he was sad because he couldn't remember how daddy used to make him laugh and asked me to show him. Another day he wanted to know how daddy was going to get to heaven when we had put him in that box. Another day he wanted to read all the books we have about heaven and just cry for a while.
Monday morning I got out of the car at Quinn's school and saw a father in a nearby car getting his kids out, and something about the sweet way he interacted with his kids made me realize exactly how much Quinn was missing. Man, it was all I could do to drop him off before completely losing my self-control. I drove to work but ended up calling in for a sub because I couldn't stop crying. I ended up crying almost three hours before I finally managed to pull myself together. I didn't know it was possible to cry that long, but apparently I have amazing endurance.
Now don't go feeling all sorry for me and Quinn. Well, maybe you can a little, but we're not having a pity party over here. There are plenty of other people out there in similar or worse circumstances. But I do confess to making and eating almost an entire pan of brownies myself, although I made the fatal mistake of making them before Quinn went to bed so I had to share. Next time I won't be so foolish. I mean seriously, you'd think I was new at this parenting gig. Making brownies before bedtime? Amateur. But now I know.
So Tuesday morning, I woke early and began my day with a strange kind of quiet time. God told me to clean my room. While initially slightly offended because, hey, I'm not a total slob, I realized that sometimes you just need to take time to put things in order. And no, this isn't some great parallel about how I've been neglecting myself while taking care of everything else. I've honored my promise to Emmett to take care of myself pretty darn well, I think. But sometimes you just need to spend some time putting things in order, not to appear a certain way or impress someone, but just to get ready for what God is doing in your heart. To clean. To hear. So as I straightened my room (though now you would hardly know I ever did it), God managed to straighten out my heart. And though I'm sure to mess up my heart again (and again and again and ... well, you get the point), I'm confident in God's ability to straighten it out, no matter how twisted it gets.