She closed the door just enough, leaving a 2-inch crack so the hinges wouldn’t sound their disapproval upon exit.
Those hinges had burned her more times than she could count, reawakening the sleeping boy and eliciting a small-voiced request for more back rubs.
(ALWAYS more back rubs!!!)
The room dark, she made her way to the boy’s bed, taking care to turn off the overhead fan and crack the window just a pinch to let in the breeze.
But not too much – the Montana nights were getting a bit too chilly for her liking, with a palpable smell of winter in the air.
Finally, she arrived at the boy’s bedside, kneeling down and placing a hand on his chest as he stared up at the ceiling.
“Scooch over” she said. The boy obediently wormed his body toward the wall, making room for her to squeeze half her body onto the twin-sized mattress.
Bed hog, she thought.
“You want your back scratched or what?” she asked playfully.
The boy rolled over painstakingly, like a sweaty chicken turning methodically on its roaster.
The back rubs commenced. And then, all of a sudden: “Mom, are you gonna die?”
What the flipping f&ck? she almost said aloud. Almost.
“Um, well bud, yeah. Someday. Not, like, right now.” She figured it was best to be honest, but try to keep things as light as possible. “Are you thinking about this because of grandpa?”
She pictured her father-in-law, at home recovering from a recent heart procedure.
Her mind raced trying to imagine tidbits the boy may have overheard during conversations with her husband… surely they hadn’t ever mentioned DEATH.
“I don’t want you die” the boy whined, breaking through her mental clamor. His body gave a slight shake, and she realized he was crying.
“Oh my gooooosh,” she soothed, “You don’t hafta be sad. Everybody dies, it’s just what happens to humans. But Daddy and I aren’t dying anytime soon.”
To hell with being honest, this distressing situation called for outright lies.
Because the truth – that any of them could die at any moment – just wasn’t small and tidy enough to fit inside a young boy’s developing brain.
He needed answers, that was obvious. But at 5, he also needed things to make sense and feel non-threatening to his existence… and to rhyme in sing-song, whenever possible.
The back rubs continued. A few moments passed, before: “Mom, is God real?”
Oh Lord have mercy, existential questions?? The second week of Kindergarten??
She: “Yes, dude, of course He’s real.”
The boy: “How do you know?”
She: “Well… I mean, it’s complicated, since we can’t really SEE him or HEAR him like we can hear each other… but even when we can’t see Him, exactly, we can feel Him and see all the things He’s doing… and the ways He shows His love…”
Oh my God, I sound like an idiot.
Using her body, she pushed the boy’s full 50 pounds closer to the wall. Turning over to her back, she gazed up at the dimly glowing stars and planets above her, placed in accurate order.
She tried to recall the acronym she’d learned way back in 5th grade science to help her name all the planets in proper succession on some test…
Some test that certainly didn’t prepare her for the stark realities of life, like a 5-year old asking about death and God.
One thing she knew for sure: she was ill-equipped to handle this situation.
Maybe if she’d played them the same worn “Psalty” and “Adventures in Odyssey” tapes she’d heard ad nauseum during childhood… been a little more persistent about evening prayers…
Man, I really screwed the pooch on this one, she thought. These kids are gonna grow up and worship Satan.
“Listen, bud, I know God’s real because He’s shown me. So, just ask Him. Ask Him to show if He’s real. He can totally do that.”
She sent up a silent prayer for herself. For the boy. The girl. Her husband.
A simple request: that God show Himself more real to all of them.
And a thank you – for a warm house, cozy bed, good food, good health. Really, what more proof of God did anyone need than these things?
Breathing a sigh, she felt oddly relieved.
Sure, it had never been more clear how little control she had over this shit-show that was raising kids.
But she also understood – for maybe the first time ever – that God, being all-powerful, needed no apologist.
He knew the boy even better than she did. He could certainly show Himself in exactly the way the boy would best receive it… in His own time.
All she had to do was wait.