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A Mother’s Arms Are Made of Tenderness

Heat, as an extreme, exists only in a relative sense. It is the hottest thing they have ever known and therefore it is the hottest thing ever known. I tell them that it is not, that my coffee is actually hotter, but that doesn’t soothe them; it only makes them question my sanity as they slowly dare a second sip of their lukewarm chocolate.

My back hurts. I’ve been carrying too much for too long. For six weeks, I’ve been living as a single father—a single work-at-home-dad. It has been incredibly hard and surprisingly easy. I am better for it, I am tired, and I am badly beaten. 

My work has suffered. My seventy-hour work week has been cut to less than forty—compiled from a series of minutes torn apart from hours and tucked between goodnight kisses and the taste of warm whiskey across my lips. The clock moves always forward.

Chores once shared have become mine alone. All nights are long and lonely. All mornings are early and full of songs and frustration.

I do not believe that I have achieved anything worthy of praise or pity, only reflection. Others face obstacles greater than mine on a daily basis. They make the most. They do their best. They are stronger than I ever thought I was and when I sip from my glass the toast is to them.

But this is not their life, it is mine and while I was prepared and up to the challenge, it was unexpected in both timing and time. From the frying pan to the fire is not a lateral move. The heat is extreme and it is all relative.

Tomorrow my wife comes home after six weeks sitting at the bedside of her ailing father. Six weeks of tears and whispers and shouts in the night. Six weeks of walking in the shoes of a girl much younger. Bedside seats are lessons in love and fear and the art of turning fond old memories that weren’t. That is a chapter not yet closed. Those wounds are still open. He will still have a beside in need of sitting and she will carry her thoughts accordingly. Her back will hurt.

They do not expect her. They have grown accustomed to the missing of their mother. Six weeks is a long time gone and a father doing the best he can is still just one kiss goodnight no matter how much laughter fills the day or how much work is left to the forgotten.

Tomorrow will seem but another day to them, the routine of living with some parts missing. They will be safe and loved and slightly lost. She will be on a plane six weeks delayed and her dreams will be of little boy kisses grown wet with salt and the slightest linger of lukewarm chocolate.

Originally published on Whit Honea

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