This one son of mine is very beautiful, and this other son of mine is also very beautiful. The one son talks, runs, argues, falls, cries, tells stories, asks to be wiped after he poops. Two days ago he came up behind me and hugged me and said, Dad, you smell like poop. I told him it must be the coffee I was just drinking. He said, No, it’s poop. I did not tell him, but I wanted to tell him, that he smells like poop all the time, the jerk.
This other son of mine, the younger one, the one-year-old, doesn’t talk much yet, says in mumbles and slurs things like Balloon, and Juice, and Mama, and Rock. He falls very often, and he cries. In the two months he’s been walking, three times he’s fallen so that his nose bled, once in church, and he cried and cried, and his shirt was blood-covered, and his fingers and hands—from wiping the blood away—dried red and sticky. For the rest of the day after my wife stopped the bleeding, his nose looked as though little red boogers had just stopped short of falling out.
And then this wife. This wife of mine. Who loves me. Who loves our boys. Who takes care of our boys. Who feeds them. Clothes them. Bathes them. Disciplines them. Asks them questions. Takes them to the park. Knows their favorite frozen yogurt. Knows their favorite bath toys. Who screams to me, Carlos! Simon just pooped in the tub! Who says, Do you think he has a concussion? Who says, Jonah is driving me crazy!
She wakes up every morning, puts Simon to her breast, nurses him, makes him laugh, comforts him, warms him, makes sounds only they two understand, and, while I shower and dress and eat and scoot off to write stories in the morning, she is with them, holding them, teaching them, cooking for them, cleaning up after them, inventing worlds and games with them, is their spiritual advisor and personal chef, and I cannot imagine a lovelier mother, a more present mother, a mother so selfless. She is devoted, like prayer, to this family, to these—all three of us—boys, devoted to us, our smells and poop and screams and nose bleeds, to our hunger and demands and messes, to our long and endless noise.
And what. What do I say about it. There are mornings I get into the car, mornings I’m driving after she drove the same car last night—maybe home from her sister’s house after a long night of talking, or maybe after a quick evening run to buy a bottle of wine. And whenever I step into the car, turn the key, adjust the mirrors, I notice this universal truth: when Allison was the last person to drive this car, and drive alone, the radio is off.
I turn the car on. I hear nothing. I hear silence.
So I am reminded. Reminded of my boys, reminded of me. Reminded of our demands and noise. Reminded of the chaos my wife looks after and manages, keeping us in order. Reminded of how much we talk about poop. Reminded that she has two sons and a husband whose imaginations and curiosities and desires fill her ears and arms with all—kinds—of—stuff.
And then this silence. These right turns, these left turns. With nothing in her ears anymore. Just street, just freeway, just road. I imagine her closing her eyes and opening her eyes, breathing slowly, giving thanks, not making a sound. Here now she is a mystic, present with God, breathing slowly, gratefully, as she pulls back into our driveway, just one more minute, just one more minute, just one more minute, until we come upon her again to help us and comfort us.