This whole “facing death” thing has me doubting everything. And right now, I’m wondering if I’ve been a good mother.
I keep thinking about something that happened this summer. I’d wanted to bring the kids to float the Portneuf River, but it was so hard coordinating it with everyone. In the end, everybody could go except our oldest daughter and her boyfriend at the time.
Anyway, one of us had the great idea that instead of getting 6 tubes we should get one giant tube. That was a mistake!
So there we were, 6 of us floating the Portneuf all together, but it was extremely uncomfortable. And everyone (except Mike) kept complaining. Being a constant Pollyanna, I responded, “But it’s a beautiful day.”
“It’s too hot.”
“I want to go home.”
“When will we be done? I have plans with my boyfriend later.”
“Two to three hours,” I said. “We get that much time to just enjoy each other. Won’t that be amazing?” But none of the kids thought so.
“Oh my gosh! Look!” I scooped something out of the water—the world’s tiniest fish skeleton. “It’s so small!” I showed the kids. This impressed my son, but I thought my youngest might jump ship—or throw up.
When we hit some rapids and the tube popped, that’s when things started to get really bad. Mike tried to hold the hole in the tube, but it was pretty big.
“I’m getting out. I want you guys to enjoy this!” So, I got out of the tube (which is what Mike had wanted to do). I folded the tube so it wouldn’t leak any more, and I started dragging them down the shallow river. As I walked, I hoped the day would get better.
I started singing, hoping that would help. And just into the fifth word, I slipped and fell into a massive hole in the yucky river!!!
Kids probably still talk about the legend of the Portneuf River monster. Well, my kids saw it that day. After I’d resurfaced from the world’s deepest river hole, a string of profanities left my mouth that would make a prison warden cringe. Mud and gunk clung to my face. Mascara dripped from my eyes....
“What in the *bleep*? I’ve been looking forward to this *bleeping* day for months. Yet does anyone else want to enjoy it? No!!! What in the *bleep* is going on with everyone. This bleepedity, bleepin’ bleep!!!”
We all ended up getting out of the tube at some point after that and climbing out of the river. (I was the only one who got stung by a strange plant on the way out.)
It was hard dragging the huge, popped tube behind us. The kids stayed close to Mike, and I walked alone—the river monster who tried not to cry.
My hair was still covered in muck, and I momentarily wondered if I had a baby fish skeleton somewhere in my hair. I overheard my second oldest daughter tell Mike, “We were having a great time until Mom flipped out.”
And I felt terrible. Sometimes in life I guess we can try so hard that it becomes more stressful than it should be. But as I’m looking back at my life, I worry that my kids will remember more of these moments than not. I guess the scary thing is that it doesn’t really matter anymore, the jobs I’ve had, the number of books I’ve written, the cool places I’ve played my violin. THOSE things don’t matter. Was I a good mom and wife? Was I a good friend?
Honestly, I’ve succeeded, and I’ve also really failed.
But the best thing about death is that it has a way of showing what’s important. And like that failed trip down the Portneuf River, I don’t want people to remember me like that river monster—especially my children.