A child’s spirit is like a child, you can never catch it by running after it; you must stand still, and, for love, it will soon itself come back.” Arthur Miller
“Do you love Mama?” I ask Alphonse every morning. Each morning, he has the same answer for me.
I thought yesterday was going to be different. He had just awakened a few minutes before. Surprisingly, he did not jump out of bed as soon as he woke up, his edgy nerves seemingly absent yesterday morning.
He paused, as if to think things slowly, and looked into my eyes. For a few seconds, it felt like we had a connection. I searched deep into his eyes for a glimmer of recognition, for something that reminded him of me. And then he shook his head grimly, stood up quietly, and walked away from me.
Yes, each morning, I ask the same question and each morning, I get the same answer. It is an answer that I have come to dread every morning for the last four weeks.
Last night, at eleven, barely an hour after falling into deep sleep, Alphonse suddenly awakened. He seemed hesitant to go back to bed again so A and I tried staying with him for a while. However, our presence seemed to irritate and startle him more so we quickly retreated when we felt a full-blown tantrum coming. The nannies calmed him down and led him back to bed. Each time he would fall asleep in our bedroom, however, he would suddenly awaken again and jump at the nannies with grabbing motions. Thrice, they tried last night to put him to bed and thrice, they failed. Finally, they led him to the schoolhouse where Alphonse seemed to calm down considerably. At two am, he finally fell asleep on a mattress on the floor of his schoolhouse. It didn’t make any sense to move him so there he stayed, surrounded by his nannies till morning.
I could not sleep last night. I was too worried and too anxious to welcome rest. The bed felt empty and incomplete. I know I should have just moved closer to A in bed to cover the sudden emptiness between us but we left the it open for Alphonse’s return, the inches of empty space suddenly unbearable. I prayed to calm myself down and found sleep when I least expected it, halfway through the fourth decade of the rosary. When I woke up this morning, the last few words of “Hail Mary” were still in my head. The sun had been up for at least an hour. The only sound in the house was of the shower running in the bath, as A got ready for work. From the schoolhouse, there was only silence. I heaved a sigh of relief.
I checked on Alphonse this morning and he was in good spirits. He seemed glad to see me as he took my hand to go back inside the house. When he opened the bedroom door, he saw the bed and quickly got on it, covering himself with a thick comforter. I wasn’t sure he wanted me there with him so I stood by the doorway, half-expecting another retreat. But he sat up and beckoned for me to sit beside him. When I did, he smiled at me and kissed me repeatedly. After each kiss, he would hold my face a few inches from his and look at me, as if reassuring himself I was really there. For the first time in weeks, I got him smiling again.
And then I remembered.
Ask the question now before it’s too late, I reminded myself.
“Do you love Mama?”
I held my breath and counted the seconds, willing myself into complete stillness, steeling myself for the answer that would wound my soul once more.
He looked at me with his big soulful eyes and paused, as if to think.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Thank you, dear God, for this miracle today.