H— was sleeping in her bouncer on the kitchen floor nearby as I was working furiously to finish the week’s stack of dishes and clean the mess that the kitchen always seems to be no matter how often we cleaned it. Cec was resting in our room, turned in early for the night. I was singing along to my years old, “Best Of” playlist.
“Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with meeeeeeeee…”
I was exhausted and overwhelmed. Life was just so much. Work, Cec, H— and everything else that was up ahead.
Life is good. And exhausting. How do you do it all? How can I be a dad and husband and soon to be student and generally decent human and teacher and disciple and political activist for a thousand different worthy causes? How can I give Cec everything she needs? How can I give H— everything that she needs? How do I keep my own interests alive and balanced and myself thriving as a creative person on top of all that other stuff? How do I find time for all the movies I want to see, books I want to read, podcasts and albums I want to listen to, and other art that I want to engage with?
Who knew that washing the dishes could spark an existential crisis?
I kept washing. At least I could do that. Hopefully before H— woke up.
I just always felt like I was neglecting something. Not fully taking advantage of what life had to offer, that no matter how much I watched or read or wrote or did, it would never be enough. That I would always fall short of the time I should’ve spent with Cec and H—.
How do people do this? How do they live with this pressure, every day, forever? Does it ever get better?
I had just a few dishes left and was about to get to cleaning the kitchen, which I’d been hoping to do all week.
H— started crying. She was suddenly awake and suffering, she must have had a nightmare or something. She needed immediate attention.
“Hey, hey, H— it’ll be ok. I’ll be right there,” I breathe out, trying to sound reassuring and calming and also urgent, as I try to finish washing the dish in my hand and then get it put down and my hands dry so I can pick her up.
Lost in the urgency, I don’t notice until I turn back to grab her that she’s stopped crying.
A woman was holding her, with red bushy hair, freckles, and bright green eyes. She was wearing a denim jacket covered in patches and behind Her, parked in our kitchen was a vaguely orb-shaped craft of some kind, with the door open, and controls visible, looking like the origin of this mysterious woman.
“Well, now, H—. I’ve been hoping to get to see you. I’ve been watching your mom and dad for a long time, now. You’re in for a treat,” She looks up at me and winks, with a bright twinkle in Her eyes as She says that last line.
I feel like I know Her, even though I know I’ve never seen Her before. I’m not sure at all what is going on and am honestly baffled at this spaceship that found its way into our kitchen and this strange, familiar woman was holding H—.
H— looked totally comfortable and thrilled to be in Her arms, honestly. Which did something to assuage my fears (I’m not sure why I trust H— to be this barometer of truth and goodness, but it seems fair that her wild, less-biased baby judgments may have some shred of truth to them).
“Conor, you look exhausted. You gotta get some sleep. Probably the least helpful thing I could say to you right now, though. You’re a new dad. You won’t be sleeping well for at least like 18 years,” She finished with a grin and a soft laugh.
Realization dawned on me.
“God-Mom? Is that you?”
“In the flesh.”
I was stunned. No wonder She was familiar and strange all at the same time.
She shrugged and then turned to H— to say, “You’re so cute,” as H— growled at Her in her new dinosaur voice that she’s been exploring for the last couple of days. “You needed some help and had some questions, so here I am, perhaps not with answers, but with love.”
H—’s lip started to quiver and then she was screaming, yelling the loudest she could, as if she were dying.
God-Mom reached out to me, holding H— to pass her off. I take her, talking to her the whole time I pull her close to me.
H— calms down as soon as she’s in my arms, still intermittently reminding me of the suffering that she has experienced with yells and general pouts. As I’ve focused on H—I lose sight of Her and then I look back up and realize that She’s climbed aboard Her ship and was about to take off, Her Aquabats patch barely visible over the side of the ship.
“You take care of her, now, Conor.”
“I will, I do,” I affirm enthusiastically, as I look H— in the eyes, she smiles and laughs and I’m filled with light and goodness and joy.
“Ah, you’re feeling it Conor. That’s how you carry on. Those moments right there. It won’t all be good, but nothing compares to those glimpses of Heaven that your children and loved ones give you.”
She had stood up and moved out just a tad as this was happening and then turned to get re-settled in Her spaceship, “Take care of yourself, Conor. You’re no good to your family, friends, Church, or the world at large, if you don’t give yourself what you need, to be who you are and do the good you need to do.”
By this point She had returned to Her spaceship.
The door was closing and She was waving as I tried to wave, while holding a fussing and growling daughter.
“Oh, one last thing,” She called out, “Watch a movie. Read a book. Write. It’ll make you a better dad. And remember, reckless abandon.”
The door closed on Her twinkling eyes and then blasted into Space without destroying our roof.
“H— what do you think about all that?” I ask her.
She growls, smiles, and laughs.