It Is Silent Now
August 27, 1989
It is 3 o’clock in the morning. The last of my dearest friends, sisters as surely as if we were related by blood, have both just hugged me good-bye and ever-so-quietly, even reverently closed my front door behind them . . . click. It is silent now. Dead silent.
I get up and wander through my spotless kitchen, dining room, living room, front bathroom. Floors are swept and scrubbed. Cabinet fronts and counter tops shine. Walls and base-boards gleam. Not a dish or pan is left out. The sink is empty and sanitized. My neighbors-most of them members of my Mormon faith-had swarmed my house within minutes of the Utah highway patrolman leaving and they had done what members of the LDS faith do so well-they had started trying to help.
While I appeared to be among them, I wasn’t. While they swept, and vacuumed, and mopped, and washed, and dried, and straightened, and dusted, and scrubbed children=s finger prints off of door frames and knobs, I spent those first couple of hours hugging and being hugged. It was like being the mother-of-the-bride at a wedding reception following some instinctive protocol appropriate for presiding over such an important rite-of-passage for your child.
The kitchen clock ticks. The hands on the living room clock keep moving. Ten minutes have passed since my friends left. Did it really take me that long to walk the circuit from the top of my entry stairs, where I had just stood and waved good-bye to them, to the living room, to the dining room, to the kitchen, and back to the hall? I stand and stare into the bathroom where only nine hours ago I had been kneeling by the tub coaxing my three and a half year old to lie still while I rinsed the shampoo from her eyes. I’m sure whoever cleaned this room had to take care of a whole pile of Saturday-dirty clothing cast off by several children before they took their turn in the tub. Plus all the towels and wash-rags and . . .
Oh, that’s right. Now I remember the half-dozen people who over my feeble protests took a load of laundry with them when they left. Not to worry, they said. They would have them washed, dried and folded neatly and delivered the next morning . . . this morning. I wonder if the sun will remember to come up this morning. Sunday morning. Church. At least I don=t have to get any children ready to go. They’re already gone, each one escorted away with hugs and kind words to a different home in our ward (local congregation) to stay overnight with friends.
The house is silent. Dead silent. No one would know that anyone was left in the house besides me. My husband is here, at the far end of the hall, in the master bedroom. Asleep? I have no idea. I cannot bear to walk back in there. I can=t bear the absolute void that was revealed between us when I had followed him into our bedroom right after I told him Carolyn was gone. The next few minutes had revealed how less-than-nothing we really shared. Not once did he make eye contact with me, much less any physical contact.
I had tried to embrace him as he lay down on the bed, but he turned his back to me and sobbed into his pillow, “My poor Tootsie. My baby. My baby. My baby is dead. My poor Tootsie is dead.” I had sat down beside him on the edge of the bed. I had leaned over him, laid my body, my soul against his, I needed desperately to give and receive support in this most horrible of all moments. What parents would not cling to each other in such a moment? What other troubles existed between us that this turn of events didn’t transcend, at least for a while? Hadn’t we created between us, out of us, the life that was now suddenly over? Where better could I possibly turn for empathy, for validation of my shock and horror than to my child’s father?
He made absolutely no indication that I was even there. There was no connection, not even a flicker of desire to give or receive comfort.
At that moment I knew the truth that I had been trying to outrun, trying to outlive, for over twenty years–there was nothing I could do to connect with him–no number of years together, no number of precious babies, no joy or crisis would be enough. But I could only handle one nightmare at a time. I rose from the bed and left the room, knowing there was no going back. Finally admitting there was nothing to go back to.
I come back down the hall and stare into the bathroom again. The house is full of Carolyn. The bathroom is full of Carolyn. Memories of her like visual echoes keep flooding through my mind. I see her standing at the bathroom counter as she did every morning, getting ready for school, her slender hips pressed against it as she leans into the mirror to put on her make-up.
I hear myself reminding her, in vain as usual, that she needs to do her one morning chore before she leaves.
“I don’t have time, now. I’ll be late,” she answers cheerfully.
“Carolyn! It will only take you two minutes! You do too have time!” I insist. But we both know it really is too late.
Before I can turn away from serving breakfast to the little kids, I hear her voice from the split entry landing, as she calls before going out the front door, using her hallmark farewell:
“Bye, Mom! See ya in a couple of whiles.@
And I am left then, as I am now, staring into an empty bathroom. Only there are no morning squabbles now over whose wearing whose blouse, or who took the last french toast. This morning there are no children here. They’ve all gone, and it is silent . . .