I was up at 5:00 this morning, instantly awake and reaching to turn off the alarm without considering the option of snoozing or fivemoreminutes. I slid out of bed and walked over to the bedroom door to pick up my inhaler and take the first puff. Silently dressed, then another puff, then down the stairs trying to avoid the creaking spots I’m still learning after six months in this house.
The cat started meowing to be let out of the basement as soon as he heard me go into the bathroom. I dumped him out the back door and went into the living room to stretch. I left the lights off, preferring to reach for my toes in the slight orange glow through the window from the outside light.
It is in these moments – before the cars begin to move, when the dog walkers are still in bed, and while my husband and younger children sleep upstairs – that I most miss Zachary. The rest of the day will be crowded with Lilah’s swimming lessons and Benjamin’s rock collecting and work calls and unloading the dishwasher and endless discussions of whether just maybe Candyland is real, but in these pre-dawn moments, I can feel the absence of my eldest, ache to hold him against me. I’ve been writing letters and calling every day, but most days he’s too busy for more than a quick rundown of his day at camp. Then he tumbles out “I love you,” and hangs up the phone so he can watch the Olympics or play Monopoly with his grandfather. This is as it should be.
By the time I returned from my run, the sun was almost all the way out and cars were rolling out of driveways. My husband was in the kitchen, showered and ready to leave for work. Five minutes later, Lilah woke up and stood at the top of the steps in her pullup, grinning at me through corkscrew curls. In a few days, Zach will be home, and Ben will be at his grandparents’ house, more interested in the story Grandpa is telling than in talking to me on the phone.
As it should be.