My child is sick, his third absence from school in as many weeks. He coughs all night long, something stuck in his throat but no idea how to expel it. He's 8, but middle-of-the-night reason does not yet work, so we do the shuffle: water. sink. cough. spit. repeat. I'm a bit sick, too, but I've got logic and history on my side. I know I'll get better. At least, I know I'll have to: I leave for America in three days. But he... oh, he just rolls over, sighs, and says, "I hate my sick life."
Me, too, pal. Me, too.
This summer was a fallow one for me in that I did very little creative writing. I still managed to keep up with some freelance work, but for the most part, I took time off from my normal responsibilities. This blog went silent, as did my columns for VOX. It was good, in that I focused my energies more on home and kids and visitors and exploration. But bad in that I'm now out of the habit. Writing feels more like ripping up floorboards than the natural expression of my being, something that must be said now or lost forever. How quickly I forget. How hard it is to start again.
With these temporal struggles in mind, a wee update, from our clan of five from Cough City:
Two weeks from now my husband will be an Irish citizen. This is nine years in the making, seven in-country, four homes, one visa rejection, and 11 months of checking the post every single day. We applied last November and then waited... something we're quite used to, but still doesn't feel so great. Nevertheless, August came round and within three days we had 1) bought a car, 2) flew to Venice, and 3) were approved for Irish citizenship, needing only to pay the final processing fees and await a date for swearing-in.
So, 20 years to the day of our very first meeting in a college chapel in downtown Chicago, Matt will become my favourite Irishman, and Ireland will officially be our home.
Ironically, I'll have to wait till later as I'll be in Kansas City, giving my mother some TLC from her second knee replacement surgery. I often tell people that the best vacations in this phase of life are hospital vacations. Stay with me, now. You get to go home (flying on your own, without children!), hang out with your family for hours on end, and do nothing but give them attention (and they, you). There is nothing on the agenda but conversations and healing and in these intimate moments of need, you get to serve them, just them, not a kid in sight. Oh sure, there may be an ugly wound or two to contend with, but that's pittance to the benefit of being there. Honestly, I'm pretty excited.
The kids are fabulous, apart from the aforementioned phlegm. Jack is in his third year of secondary school, which is like being a freshman in high school, except that he's already got two years under his belt. This is a big year for him - Junior Certificate year - which is a pretty big exam he'll take in June. He's tall and skinny and gentle and loud and soon he'll be a full-fledged man and I will die.
Ella is 11 today. Our only planned baby, but the biggest surprise of all. She's in 5th class and rides her bike to school and has her own house key. When I'm away, she gets up early to empty the dishwasher and sweeps the kitchen floor. When I'm home, she stomps around the house pouting whenever I ask her to do these very same things. She's brilliant at art and sport, but hates maths and can't spell a darn thing. Yes, she's her father's daughter.
Asher the sicky turned 8 in August and we had zero parties but a lot of family fun. Our birthdays coincide, so we spend the whole week partying. My favourite gift every year is celebrating him. He's in 2nd class and puts his whole heart into everything, for good and for bad. He's devastated easy and delighted easy, too. Everyday is either the worst or the best. His heart breaks a million times, but still he gets right back up and keeps going, despite himself.
He also brought lice into our house.
So we are square into this life now, soon-to-be forever legal. I'd say we have no plans at all to move back to the US, but you know how God is, so I keep those thoughts (wishes) mostly to myself. America doesn't seem like the place I left, at least from this angle. I'll know better after my trip if the stories I see on the news, the local headlines screaming "What's Wrong With America?!" are accurate, but I know my heart breaks with every newsflash and radio report. We wake up to something new in Texas, in Florida, in Puerto Rico, in Mexico City, in Las Vegas (and Baghdad and Manchester and Marseille), and cry,
"How long, Lord?"
And He answers,
"Take heart! I have overcome the world."
We know this to be true.
We hope it will be true.