I’m piloting new names for my blog.
The bowls in my house are missing. This morning, Michael came into the kitchen to get his daily and unchanging breakfast of choice: a heaping bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. There should be roughly 10 bowls in the cupboard. “Where are all the bowls?” he asked me. The cupboard was empty. There were two dirty bowls in the sink. I remembered that Mark had emptied the drying rack yesterday. Michael and I searched all the cupboards. The oven. The pantry. The refrigerator. Nothing. No idea where he put them.
It’s been that kind of week.
Young Matthew thinks he might keep his new middle name, Christpher. I think this is a brave and adventurous choice. I laughed for hours about this birth certificate gaffe. I recognized my delight for what it was; I am at the level of exhaustion and stress where I’m a little loopy and can easily plunge into the kind of hysteria that can morph quickly from laughing to crying, depending on how I take my next breath.
Part of it was how the whole post office scene unfolded. Mark was not in a good brain space when we arrived. He had pulled up the ladder to his mind attic and wasn’t speaking. The clerk was kind. I’m sure it’s confusing to have me, technically not legally anything to Matthew while being operationally everything to Matthew, speaking for Matthew. And for Matthew’s dad. Mark was dressed as he often is when we go out, which to me looks like some version of spy, fugitive, and old guy. He had on a baseball cap, blackout sunglasses, a mask, and his 30 year old yellowed silk softball team jacket. Even on the best of days, Mark doesn’t expend much energy on facial expressions. In this getup, in this headspace, he’s unknowable.
I led the conversation. At the point when I had to explain that Matthew’s bio momma had died, I handed over her death certificate. “I’m very sorry for your family’s loss,” the clerk said solemnly, looking carefully at each of us. I was confused. Did he think she just died? Was this some social rule I didn’t know, that you still offer fresh condolences eight and a half years after a death? Mark and Matthew sat in stoney silence. I awkwardly accepted the condolences on their behalf. Then the clerk pointed out the misspelling of Matthew’s middle name on his birth certificate. I believe I snorted. “Did you know that, Mark?” I asked. He didn’t answer. Finally it was time to pay. I had brought Mark’s checkbook. I filled in the information and passed it over to him. “Where do I sign?” Mark asked, breaking his silence. I was startled. Even though I have been taking care of all the finances since the onset of Mark’s illness, I didn’t think he wouldn’t know where to sign a check. I held my finger on the line while he signed. “Again,” the clerk said, standing as we left, “my condolences on the loss in your family.” We stood as I thanked him again. I put out my hand for Mark to hold. On good days, this can feel like what any normal married couple does. Every day, I am aware that I’m providing Mark protection, stability and guidance. This day, instead of grabbing my hand with his left hand, Mark took my hand with his right hand, like we were shaking hands. He held on as I led him out of the post-office and to the car.
I went to a Dutch Christian Reformed college, and the students had some clever ways of not cursing in practice but cursing in spirit. So for the benefit of my dear parent’s, here’s how I feel about how this whole situation went down.
A few hours later, dinner was cooked, eaten, and cleaned up. The boys were back on their computers and Mark and I were parked on the couch for our evening TV cycle. Mark got up and went into the bathroom. A few minutes later I heard a crash. I went running, beating Michael and Matthew by a few seconds. Mark was laying half in, half out of the shower with the shower rod and curtain pulled down over his head. When the rod fell, it hit the faucet and the showerhead was raining down on him. Mark looked confused. I turned off the water, pulled the rod and curtain off Mark and pulled him up. “It’s okay! It’s okay!” I said to no one and to all of us. I guided Mark back to the couch, where he sat quietly in his wet sweatshirt until Wheel of Fortune ended and it was time for bed.
So this morning, when the mystery of the bowls happened, I ranked it right up there with learning that Matthew is Matthew Christpher. Of some consequence, but in the scope of things, not much. Michael and I did the only thing we can do. We laughed, and moved on.