I could have used a Pause button so many times this year. It’s been a hard one so far. There have been many moments where my brain can’t think of anything except, “Stop!”
Stop the hospital visits.
Stop the cancer.
Stop the fear and anxiety and grief.
Stop the contagion.
Stop the kids growing up.
Stop the unstoppable march of time.
I got to the car and carefully positioned the shopping cart at an angle so it wouldn’t move. I maneuvered my eleven-week-old daughter out of the stretchy gray fabric of the baby carrier and secured her in her infant car seat on the passenger side of the car. Next, I pulled the cart over to the other side of the car, again angling it so it wouldn’t budge, as I lifted my eighteen-month-old son out and into his larger car seat. I buckled him in and then started on the groceries. All food and humans loaded, I plopped myself in the driver’s seat and pulled out my phone: three missed calls, one mom, one spam, one sister. I called mom on speakerphone as I backed the car out of the parking space. “We’re at the hospital.” “Wait. Stop talking. I have to pull over.” I pulled the car back into a parking space. I had only made it to the end of the row of cars.
Can I hit “pause” please? Can I stop time before I have to hear this news? Can I stay here where my biggest trouble of the day was getting two babies in and out of the grocery story without meltdowns? Can I delay the stroke and the ER visits and the worry?
Not even three months postpartum, I had visited one of two hospitals every day for fourteen days straight, first two days for my dad’s stroke and then twelve days for complications of my sister’s cancer. Some days I packed a stroller or baby carrier and toted one or more babies along with me. Some days I called on a friend to babysit, completely last minute. Some days she seemed better. Some days she seemed worse. On the last day of hospital visits, I was sitting in the waiting room with my dad and sister, my husband and babies, when my brother-in-law came in and said, “If you want to be with her, now is the time.”
Can I hit “pause” please? Can I stop time before I have to walk down that hallway? Can I stay here in this waiting room, where my silly son is making everyone laugh? Can I have more time before she leaves us?
Two-and-a-half weeks after my sister’s memorial service, I left the grocery store again, this time alone. The kids were at home with Chad, where they would remain, except for an occasional walk or drive, for the foreseeable future. The grocery store had been full of people, some with masks and gloves, some without, all with a general sense of tension. Shelves were already empty; the lines were long. This was just the beginning. On the two-mile stretch from the grocery store to our street, I had a panic attack.
Can I hit “pause” please? Can I stop time before this virus spreads any more and we have to shelter at home? Can I stay here in this moment before the world shuts down? Can we stop time if we’re going to stop jobs and schools and socializing?
I’m sitting on the living room floor, my legs straddling my now six-month-old daughter. My legs are only there just in case. She’s pretty stable now, sitting with her chubby legs out in front of her. She reaches for a toy further away. I put my hands up — just in case — but she stretches for the toy and rights herself, no problem. She looks up at me and grins, wobbly but balanced. Her brother, a few feet away, is stacking Legos and chattering to me. He tells stories now, one or two words at a time. His vocabulary has exploded. Chad and I are the only two people who get to see these little humans grow. We are the only ones who get to hold them and tickle them. Twenty miles away, a friend cancels her baby shower, her belly growing without her family and friends to celebrate and dote over her. Three thousand miles away, my best friend’s daughter is growing in parallel to mine, but I don’t get to meet her or hold her. I don’t know when I will.
Can I hit “pause” please? Can I stop these little babies from growing, just for a little while? Can I make them wait until we can surround them with family and friends again? Can I stop time so no one else misses these milestones, these moments we will never get back?
No. There’s no Pause button. Time just keeps going. Despite illness. Despite grief. Despite isolation. Time just keeps going.
We’ll just have to figure out how to make up for it.