Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Letter to HH

Dear Son,

This morning I woke you, something I rarely do intentionally. It’s the first Monday after the Christmas holidays when everything is back in full swing. The Germans take their time getting back to work after Christmas, it’s a holiday they cherish and much to my pleasant surprise they don’t overdue it like we tend to do in America. That’s not to say they don’t give it it’s due – they do – but somehow it seems to fit – all of it – in a way that makes sense.

But this isn’t about Christmas, it’s about getting up very early on the first working Monday following Christmas and I was ready, all showered and shaved and nearly dressed when I went in to see you and there you were curled up under your green blanket, the one with sleeping bears printed on it, with your head on the matching pillow and in your arms, your ‘baby’, that ratty, second-hand bear the manager from the storage unit in Manhattan gave you one day and of all the bears and sheep and pigs and lions and dogs you have staring at you from the foot of your bed it’s that old, used, nearly falling apart bear you love most and that you had clutched in your hands up close near your face this morning.

I rubbed your back for the longest time, hoping that would wake you, then I started kissing you and rubbing my beard on your face hoping the familiar stubble might wake you but no, so finally I had to talk to you and when you heard my voice you sat up sharply and soft–eyed looked around and seeing me, closed your eyes again and lay back down. After a few more attempts I had you up – at least in my arms – and sitting at the breakfast table. I knew something was very wrong when I asked you what you wanted for breakfast and you said, “nothing.” The usual routine is for you to argue for pancakes then settle for French toast and then for me to somehow persuade you to eat your fruit and some dry toast and maybe an egg and bacon. I’ve been doing my best to limit the number of times each week you eat maple syrup because whether it’s pancakes or French toast – it’s all about the sugar. I know that even if you don’t and I suspect you know it too. This morning I got you up early because it was my first day back at German school. I also had a huge amount of other work to do, writing an article and a preparing a lecture I have to give next weekend in Croatia – a place I haven’t been in almost twenty years – and I’m not even sure why I’m going there but I am. So this morning I had lots of things on my plate and getting you out the door and into school was one of them – it was in fact the first item on my agenda. So there you were, in my arms, ‘baby’ pressed firmly to your face, all warm and gentle you were, still half asleep and telling me you didn’t want any breakfast.

It was a nanosecond or two after you made this shocking announcement that the coughing began, not normal phlegm-clearing coughing but something of another order, like a warning blast from an air-raid shelter horn and just as I stood up to rush you into the bathroom your tummy erupted and its warm contents covered nearly everything; ‘baby’, your blanket, your clothes, me, the floor.

It wasn’t the last episode for the day but it was the boldest and it confirmed that all my grand plans had to be scraped and the lecture and the writing assignment and everything else I had on my calendar were going to be wiped clean and the strange thing was, it didn’t bother me at all.

Honestly, I was pretty happy about it. I had a clear, guilt-free opportunity to spend time with my favorite human being and I didn’t have to think about the work I wasn’t getting done, the calls I wasn’t making – any of it. It was our day to spend together. We didn’t end up doing much of anything special, some train play, some minor cleaning – which you love so dearly. But we did spend much more time than usual just sitting together, you with the freshly washed and dried ‘baby’ in your arms and me, with you in mine, reading Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and stopping at points between his poems to tell you an anecdote or two of my own.

You finally fell asleep in my lap in the late afternoon and I carried you into your room and put you to bed where you are sleeping now, as I write this late that same night. It was a joy of a day and although I’m sorry for the tummy ache you had son, I am grateful beyond words for the chance to spend another day very close to you.



Copyright German Diary 2007