Last week, Rory’s beloved babysitter, who is pregnant with her third, was put on bed rest. From Rory’s point of view, she disappeared with no warning–I was traveling, and it was all we could do to get all the kids and their needs covered, let alone get Rory over to see her Heather. We explained, of course we did, but Rory was bit suspicious and very clearly thrown off course. She liked all the activities that filled in for Heather, like a trip to the indoor pool and dinner out with Daddy–but it was not what she expected.
And Rory still does not deal well with that which is not what she expected. Rory likes things to stay the same. The result was a kid off balance, extra whining, extra needs, extra picking at her brother and sister. And a LOT of questions.
Which we dealt with as best we could. On Saturday, I promised, I would take Rory to see Heather, and on Saturday we got ready: made cookies, gathered some things a person stuck in bed for weeks might need, picked her some tomatoes and made a little veggie dip. At the last minute we were a little delayed by the need to pick Lily up at a playdate, and then we were off to the hospital.
We knew what room she was in, and we headed blithely there. We were literally at the door when someone stopped us. She’d had the baby, only a few minutes ago.
It was very early. That part of things is Heather’s story and not mine to tell, although I will say that the baby (Ollie) is doing really well. But at that moment they knew very little, the baby was in the NICU, Heather hadn’t even seen him…and she still insisted I bring Rory in. She knew how thrown off Rory was. She knew how hard it would be for Rory not to see her. And she insisted.
We went in, we gave love, we left. But that meant so much…Rory feels a million times better. And Heather knew she would.
You know that bringing a preschooler into our world wasn’t easy, and you know that being torn from her own world was anything but easy on Rory. Heather has been solidly there for every minute. She never made things complicated, never worried about attachment or trauma or anything. She just showed up, took care of Rory, learned to love her, and loved her in this totally ordinary way, and that has meant more to Rory than Heather probably knows. When Rory and I were struggling, Heather was the same. When Rory was battling to see if I really meant anything I said, there was Heather. When I was wrestling with what it meant to “love” someone I’d known a matter of months, and how to handle it when that someone bit my baby, Heather was there. Without her, I would surely be either institutionalized or bar tending in Kokomo by now.
And now, she put Rory ahead of her own needs at a really, really tough moment. And made things better for her, just like she’s been doing all along. A number of people have asked me this past week how I would manage without Heather. They meant, immediately–how would I meet deadlines, how would I stay sane. I didn’t have any plans to do anything other than wait for Heather to come back, because Heather is irreplaceable. I might fill in with an after school activity here and there, or see if one of the students who does occasional evenings has any afternoons, but we aren’t going to work anyone else into our complicated lives. It’s not just about me working, but about the delicate and loving balance we’ve got going in our lives right now. I can slow down a little for a few weeks or months; Rob can do some more driving and shuttling, we can teeter and totter on until Heather comes back a little at a time, with plenty of time for whatever she and the baby need.
Heather was always coming back, and we always knew something like this could happen, pregnancy being the unpredictable thing that it is. If things had gone as planned, I might have brought in a kid with a car and filled in for a few weeks while she was off. But when you have kids that have seen a lot of upheaval, I think it makes sense to minimize its result. People she loves have been suddenly replaced in Rory’s world, and even for the other three, things that appeared to be permanent have proven to be more in flux than they expected. We love Heather, and her family, and when things happen to them, we rally and gather and come closer. We don’t rush off to try to keep the superficialities of life exactly the same. We take time to figure out how it feels when things are different, and we go from there.
As a blogging friend, Shirlee, said when her daughter met her grandparents for the first time, family in China was family, but it was permeable. “Aunts” and “Uncles” came and went. This family our girls have now is permanent, and people we love can’t be popped in and out of the picture like so many puzzle pieces. Heather was gone, and Heather will come back, and in the meantime we won’t pretend to be anything but lost without her. Because Heather’s love is forever, too.