It was a Friday and I was fried. My Mothers Day Out had been rendered effectively useless, as I was called to school to pick up one daughter who had a head ache. Privately I bristled at having my one day with only one kid for all of four hours being taken from me and wished, oh how I wished, that the nurse not to have called. I was even more put out, because it was already shortened as the school had a half day, and now I was even giving up more free time. I have frequently suggested to my older children that unless they are throwing up, bleeding or have bones missing or protruding, they are not to call, or at the very least, not on Friday. I am sure they think I am heartless, but this half day came after three weeks of no Mother’s Day out, due to illness, snow, and days off for my oldest four. I had missed an entire month of my once a week oasis, so I was not in a good place.
My husband had recently begun going to daily mass during lunch and I had to admit, I was not only envious but felt I was somehow stuck and left behind. I was overwhelmed by laundry, by the fiscal bleakness of the middle of February, and by the fact I had hit my all time high and weight and we had hit a low in finances owing to Christmas. The weekend held two basketball games, one Father Daughter Dance on Friday, scheduled mass at 7 on Sunday and I wanted quite frankly to flee. I felt tired tired tired. The house was a mess. I dutifully picked my daughter up and then got lunch. I dutifully drove to pick up the other three at noon and then the two from Mother’s Day out.
The kids played on the computer and Nintendo and I tried to “push the reset button on myself.” I called my husband and asked that he come home so I could go to adoration that night. I figured, I’d complain to God. Hearing the stress in my voice, he said, “I’ll come home so you can get blessed for St. Blaise’s Day.” Saint Blaise was a special Saint to me because of my long battle with tracheotomies. I even had named a son after him, so today I had to go; I knew I would feel better if I could get my neck blessed. Heartened, I went about the business of the afternoon, fixing snacks, keeping the babies clean and fed, getting kids to practice their instruments and maybe clean up a bit. We fixed dinner, we talked about the day, things were looking up I thought. Seven o’clock.
Seven-thirty. The older kids began to watch a movie while I bathed the younger two and tried to persuade a stubborn son to take a shower and wash his hair. I have finished drying off and diapering my toddlers when my husband arrived and we both remembered the father daughter dance. My older daughter opted out because of her headache and fever –I felt guilty about having wanted to keep her at school now, but my husband planned to be back early so I could go to adoration and the service at 9. He and my other daughter left and I felt alone in a house full of people.
Then things break down. My daughter is very feverish so I take her temperature and bring her a drink. Meanwhile, another daughter starts crying. What’s wrong I ask? She begins to have serious diarrhea. It is so bad I throw out the pants without even a second thought. We get her in the bathroom, saving the carpet but causing the floor in the bathroom to look very gross. I toss her in the shower. Too cold, too hot, just right. Meanwhile, the toddler has taken off his diaper and is cavorting around the house naked.
I shout to summon my oldest son and only ally. I plan to give him a choice, diapering his brother and dressing him, or dishes, I know what he will choose. He responds valiantly, running up the stairs. My stubborn unshowered son has been blissfully working on an extensive delicate model plane made of legos. It is an undeniable work of art. I had been begging him to take it to his room during the day for fear one of his siblings knowingly or otherwise would break it. He is finally doing this task at that very second that his brother bounds up the stairs. Amazingly, they do not collide. The toddler gets diapered but not before he leaves a wet spot on the carpet.
The bounding up the stairs awakened the baby. Before I can address these two new issues, a third issue arises. Wails of absolute emotional agony piercingly trump the shower, the crying baby, and the phone that has just started ringing. My son has dropped his delicate model. It has shattered into a billion pieces and with it, his psyche. What do I do? Answer the phone.
My husband called because he didn’t know he needed to get a snack for the Girl Scout dance or pay money, he has neither with them, and so they went to the bank to get money. There is a problem with the atm machine. I promise to call the bank and hang up.
Taking a deep breath, I think about the order of operations to proceed. I ask the older brother to help pick up the legos and put his brother back together. He agrees and together they pick up the model. I grab the squirming toddler and dress him in pj’s and put him in my room, in my bed. I strip his bed and then turn to the baby who has cried herself to sleep. Getting the sick to her stomach girl out of the shower, I dry her off, wipe down the bathroom with Lysol and put all the dirty clothing in a laundry bag to clean up later.
I put my puffy eyed three year old in a pull up and comfort her and dress her, and put her to bed. She does not protest. I go downstairs with the bad laundry. I find throw up she forgot to tell me about. I grab the phone and the vacuum. Cleaning up the vomit while waiting on hold for a financial person to answer from the phone tree of the bank about the ATM, I wonder which job is less tedious or icky and then vote both since I’m doing both at once. I talk to the bank while starting the wash. The teller fixes the problem. Marc calls about the time the baby wakes up crying. He tells me he took his daughter to eat instead and is coming home. I say thank you and relate all that has happened since his last phone call. “Don’t, worry, we’re coming home and you can go to St. Francis.” He tries to comfort me, but we are both worn and very frustrated by the utter oblivion of the evening.
Having nursed the baby to sleep, I did a final check on my two daughters and both have crashed. The two brothers are rebuilding the model –God Bless them; and my toddler is asleep in my bed. When my husband and daughter got home, and I drove one block to St. Francis but the St. Blaise service is over. People are doing Benediction but I am just not in the mood for public prayer.
I am angry, tired and absolutely ready to cry or rage or something after dealing with multiple bodily fluids and having such a crazy and stressful string of events. I know St. Francis usually has adoration on Friday night. I go to check. Christ is the one person I know I can pour all my troubles to, and maybe, there will be a priest I wistfully think, and I can go to reconciliation for all of my sins of just TODAY.
The door is locked but I can see into the adoration chamber, a priest. He is moving so reverently that the act of putting the Host into the monstrance itself, is a prayer. I watch through the two glass doors and feel like the distance and the locked doors are reflective of my own spirit at the moment. “Please, I think, please turn around and open the door.” I have knocked but I don’t think he can hear me and I don’t want to bang. A woman sees me as she is coming into the room and opens the door.
Thank you. I say as I step into the warm small chamber with pews and a statue of Mary and St. Joseph and in the middle, a crucifix above the altar where the Monstrance is placed. The priest is there and I ask him to bless my throat. He points out he does not have the candles but does the blessing anyway after I tell him of my history with Saint Blaisé. He nods and performs the blessing.
Then I ask for reconciliation and proceed to tell him of the day, of the fear of managing all these people, of our finances, of my momentary pettiness. Things come out I hadn’t expected. My daughter had been diagnosed with a weird fungus that makes her lose her hair. She is becoming quite mangy and it hurts my heart. I suddenly look at the priest I am telling this to, he is bald. I tell of my worries of raising seven children, he tells me he is one of ten. I tell him of our concerns about our house and our finances. He tells me how he grew up in the depression and how as a child, he loved it when his dad was out of work because they could go to baseball games together. God had picked this priest for me, with all of his life experiences, to help transform my worry and pain in a single moment of grace.
God had answered my unspoken prayer by placing this beautiful priest with all of his life experience here at this moment, to help reflect to me how all this struggling is a vehicle for the Holy Spirit. The exactness of God’s answer to my needs indicates the unmistakable intimacy of God’s knowledge of our hearts and how it is both overwhelming and soft at the same time. Peace be with you He said to us back then, and still, that is what He wishes for us now, peace. Even the bad days have purpose to bring us to God and sometimes, if we’re blessed, we get to witness the meaning made clear of those bad days when we see clearly how they bring grace to ourselves and others others.
Copyright 2010 Sherry Antonetti