A Matter of Time — By Cathy Harris

The baby is wailing, howling at the moon,
startling the stars with her grief.
The toddler pushes a book at me, and
the four-year-old doesn’t like the way his sandwich is cut.
I have failed miserably.
What of the glories of motherhood?

My mother laughs, kisses me, kisses them.
says, This is life.
messy, difficult – and beautiful.
Love them, teach them to be kind.
It will get better, it’s just a matter of time.

I go grocery shopping.
Marc throws his glasses – why not?
He doesn’t have words to express how he feels.
He is scared, he wants to go home.
I apologize to the other shoppers, to the clerk, to myself, for my failures as a parent.

I imagine –
I’m on a beach,
toes deep in warm sand,
book in hand.
A lulling sea,
Birds wheeling over the waves.
Not a child in sight.

Back home, we laugh ourselves silly
and make playdough creatures.
Hugging and cuddling,
reading piles of books on a blanket in the backyard.
Together, bending over a butterfly,
admiring the slender snake in the garden.
Starstruck at the planetarium.
I think, “I am blessed.”

My father says,
Remember to be kind to yourself – they love you.
It’s just a matter of time. They will grow up fast.

Where is the manual for motherhood?
No one gave it to me, and I got it wrong.

Rachel smashes her door,
breaks my heart to pieces.
I take the door off it’s hinges,
she finds other ways to drive me crazy.

Ryan doubts himself,
asks the same question over and over,
just to be sure.

Marc flies off the handle
frightened by the world outside his door.

We grow older,
we grow up,
I live parenthood,
My husband lives work.
But we hold on to each other
remembering what is precious.

This year I got a mug from Rachel that says,
“The truth is, even if she weren’t my mom,
I’d go out of my way to be friends with her.”
My blue-eyed firecracker is 23 years old.
I hug her tight.
So – not a complete failure after all.

And twenty years after my dad’s passing,
I relive a memory –

My brilliant, kind, often exasperating dad
is sixty seven years old.
He lies, a neatly folded sheet his shroud,
His hospital bed in the family room,
his heart, for now, still beating.

My mom barely sleeps, holds her breath,
waits for something to happen
Needs to be there when it does.

My father smiles at the kids.
The oldest, Marc takes his hand.
My dad touches his sad face, kisses him.
Later, he says to my mother, in private,
“I’m sorry. There’s just no fun anymore.”

The doctor says,
It’s just a matter of time.

We weep.