It’s a typical Sunday morning. The house is quiet, as I am the only one awake. I slip into the living room, pulling aside the curtains to look out into the dawn light. The woods are gray and silent, but the rising sun shines pink and gold, lighting the tips of each branch. I stand still, looking out, quietly planning the day.
As I start a pot of coffee, I reach into the refrigerator and pull out the big pot of meatballs and sauce that I made last night. I put them on to simmer, oh-so-slowly, to let the flavors blend and steep. I clear my throat, trying to break up the lump that has formed there. It must be the last remnants of my cold, clogging my airway and making my throat ache.
The morning comes in full, the cold sunlight filling the house with its gilded light. I am showered and dressed and ready to start a big load of laundry. Gathering wet towels from surprising places, I scoop up an armload and head down the stairs. I have to kick aside a pair of giant sneakers to get into the laundry room, and I wonder why the motion has left my stomach feeling heavy and low. “I should probably eat some breakfast,” I tell myself, as I feel my center drop.
I move through the morning, watching the Sunday news shows, reading the front page of the paper. Paul and Tim are talking football and hockey, the sports page spread out across the coffee table and spilling onto the floor. I sweep up piles of dog hair, straighten the bathroom and start some bread dough to rise. We have leftover holiday eggnog, and I want to use it to bake some delicious cinnamon bread. My boys will enjoy it over the next few days, I’m sure.
I stir in the flour, adding honey and eggs, breathing in the yeasty smell of the warm dough. My eyes begin to sting and burn, and I make a mental note to grab some eyedrops as soon as I have a moment to spare. I rub them with my sleeve, hoping to clear up the fogginess so that I can knead my dough and set it on the stove to rise.
The men go outside to bring in wood for the week. I can hear them laughing and talking by the woodpile. I peek out the window and smile at the sight of Paul and his boy. I turn to set the table, but I have to stop for just a minute to rest my legs. For some strange reason, they feel weak and rubbery, and don’t want to hold me up. I should probably go to bed early tonight; I seem to be surprisingly tired.
At one o’clock, we sit down to a big dinner of pasta and salad and homemade foccaccia. I revel in the compliments and the sighs of contentment from Tim as we eat, and chat and laugh together. The food is delicious, although I am having a hard time swallowing. My chest is aching. There is a deep and squeezing pain right next to my heart. I move the food around my plate, but I don’t feel as hungry as I had thought I would. I vow to take a Pepcid after dinner.
The three of us clean up, putting away dishes, washing pots and pans. We pack up the leftovers into plastic containers, and wrap up the last of the bread. Tim has put on music, and we sing together in harmony as we clean, my raspy voice a funny counterpoint to his clear tenor.
At last everything is cleaned up and put away. The laundry is done, the bed is stripped, the car is packed.
“Bye, Mama. I love you!”
I give my baby boy the biggest hug that I can manage, holding him close, close, close; squeezing him to my heart.
“I’ll see you soon, OK?”
“Have fun, honey! I love you.”
He gets into the car with his Dad. They toot the horn as they pull out of the driveway. I wave and I smile.
I turn and walk slowly back into my empty, empty nest.