Today we went shopping for an SUV. My large, purple four door luxury Hyundai sedan has low door clearance, so I basically have to toss Joel into his car seat through a tiny opening, and he doesn’t like it, so we kind of want a new vehicle. (If you’re worried Joel might become spoiled, I can assure you that your concerns are valid.)
We put little thought into our appearance before heading out to the dealership. We looked as though we couldn’t afford the clothes on our backs, let alone an SUV, but we figured resembling the Beverly Hillbillies was a nonissue given that dealerships are generally closed on Sundays. Joel had food all over his face and clothes, I was wearing a black cardigan sweater with sweatpants, and Mark was wearing gym clothes. Joel was the only one who’d had his hair washed within the past 24 hours, and I (Mark later informed me) had pepper in my teeth. AND, I’d forgotten to wear my wedding ring, AND we drove our 1995 rusty (and trusty) Jeep Cherokee (beater) with ~369,000 miles on it that Mark’s mom drives when she’s in town.
When we pulled up to the dealership, we noticed that the parking lot was crawling with patrons. Much to our surprise, a customer (with his labradoodle) unlocked an SUV next to the one we were looking at, so we were like, “Is the dealership open?” And he was like, “No.” And I asked Mark, “How the heck is it not open if he’s about to test drive this car with his dog?” So Mark was like, “How did you get the key?” And he was like, “Oh, Tom (one of the sales guys) is here – you can go find him.” (Apparently Tom goes the extra mile to increase his sale numbers, letting customers test drive cars with their dogs on Sunday afternoons.)
So we walked into the dealership building, and there was NO ONE in there. So Mark was like, “Yooohooo – Tom?!?! Come out, come out, where ever you are!” And Tom was like, “Do you want to drive a car?” And Mark was like, “Yes.”
So we took this SUV for a spin, and then we decided we might kind of like it, and Tom told us our Hyundai is a piece of shit, so we might sell it on Craigslist, but then we took the SUV home to see if we could fit it into our garage, and it fit, so we decided we were interested in purchasing it. So we made an offer on the SUV, but Tom didn’t come down much on price, so now we’re going to sleep on it.
Later we visited another dealership that was actually closed rather than pseudo-closed, and Mark tried to open the door of an SUV (why?!), and set off its alarm (oopsie).
After Mark set off the alarm, we decided to flee the dealership to eat at Penn Station Subs without running home first, because I had a squeezy packet of food for Joel in his diaper bag.
Upon entering the restaurant, this high school aged guy stopped Mark and asked him, “So do you have another older child?”
And Mark was like, “Ummmmm… Actually yes, but I don’t know if I do in the way you’re thinking… He died.”
And the kid was like, “Oh. I’m so sorry. I thought you maybe had a kid in high school who played on the basketball team!”
And Mark was like, “I’ve only been out of high school for 13 years.”
And this is when I entered the conversation, and I was like, “It has NOT been 13 years.”
BUT OH IT HAS.
But I was kind of flattered, because I thought the kid had asked whether Mark played for a local high school basketball team. But then later Mark broke the news to me that this kid actually thought he had a son who played for a local high school basketball team.
So basically we both look 50 years old. Not that there’s anything wrong with looking 50 years old, but we are barely more than 30 years old. (But maybe we do look 50 because grief…)
So we ordered a Reuben and a Philly Cheesesteak (and some fries and lemonade), and Mark promptly sat down with Joel to feed him some food, at which point I noticed that we had only Joel’s food (no bib, no spoon), so I told Mark, “You’re just going to have to squirt the food into his mouth.”
And Mark was like, “Go get a spoon.”
But the restaurant only had knives and forks, so I asked the employees if they had any spoons and they kept pointing to the knives and forks, and they didn’t seem to understand what a spoon was at all.
Mark kind of thinks Joel can eat faster than is possible for a baby, so he squirted some of the food into Joel’s mouth too fast and it got all over Mark’s shirt and Joel’s shirt, so at this point not only had we not showered, but Mark and Joel were COVERED in prunes and coconuts and chia seeds (or whatever).
Finally one of the employees brought us our food in a to-go bag, and Mark was like, “We ordered it for here.” And the employee was like, “This is for Mike.”
And Mark was like, “Mark?”
And the rest of the conversation went like this:
Employee – Mike?
Mark – Mark.
Employee – Mike.
Mark – Mark.
Employee (semi-aggressively) – MIKE!
Other customers – Is that a Reuben and a Philly? We ordered those to go.
Mark – We ordered the same thing? Maybe this is yours then…
Me (irritated) – Are you Mike then?
Other male customer – I’m Frank.
Employee – Mike?
Other male customer – Frank.
Employee (semi-aggressively again) – MIKE!
Other male customer – Frank. (Frank finally takes bag of sandwiches.)
After we finally received our sandwiches and finished our dinner, I took Joel from Mark and he spit up in my hair.
Joel screamed all the way home, because he was overtired, so we sang Apple Bottom Jeans (but instead of “boots with the fur,” it was “Joel Christo-pherrrrr”) to calm him down, and it worked.
Today was one of those days that I could relish in the normalcy and laugh at some of the weirdness (one of my favorite past times) related mundane activities such as car shopping and awkward sandwich shop encounters. For a few hours, I lived purely in the moment, and it felt good.
Sometimes, on days like this, I go so far as to allow myself to think, “We have a really good life…” And, in some ways, I suppose we do… But I always circle back to revise my statement, correcting it with, “We almost had a really good life…”
I suppose it’s possible to have both at the same time – a good life and a gut-wrenching one existing side by side. This is, in fact, maybe the best-case scenario for anyone who experiences child loss or any other type of profound loss or tragedy. But sometimes instead of these two different lives co-existing it seems life was almost perfect until it was ruined, or that life would be perfect (or as close to it as possible) if both Matthew and Joel were here… They could have both been here, you know? They almost were, it seems.
So I dwell on the almost…
The thought of almost knocks the wind out of me every single time. It torments me constantly.