Why is Daddy drinking his tea asleep?

2010-07-29 00:00

“WHY are your eyes broken?” three-year-old Anna asked as I kneeled down in front of her. We had been having a serious conversation and I was just getting eye-level to make my final point when she interrupted. “They are cracked,” she explained.

I checked carefully in the mirror. She was right: all over the white of my eyes were thin, red, crooked cracks. My eyes were indeed broken.

This wasn’t the first time that Anna’s astute powers of observation and even astuter powers of description had helped me see things that I hadn’t seen before; had helped me understand mysteries that I had lived with, but never acknowledged.

“Why is Daddy drinking his tea asleep?” she asked one morning at 6.30 am. I looked over to where my husband had propped his head up on the pillows. She was right. The top part of his face was lifeless. A slack forehead led into peacefully closed eyes and drooping cheeks, but around a warm cup of tea his lips gently puckered and pulled. Why hadn’t I seen that before? My husband can move before 8 am. He can drink tea, get out of bed and even bath; but essentially he is still asleep and needs to be treated with the respect that a sleeping person deserves. What I had failed to learn on my own in 10 years of marriage, Anna’s thoughtful mind and creative tongue had taught me in 10 seconds. Sometimes Anna offers a little bit of advice with her observations. Like when she crawled into my bed at 5 am and said: “Who is stinky round here – go change yourself!”

And sometimes I don’t take it. Like when I said: “It is 5 am;everyone is stinky in the morning, if you don’t like it, go back to your own bed!”

But mostly her wise words are duly heeded. It had been a long day, I was tired and whizzing around the house issuing commands — tidy this, hang up that, speak politely, look me in the eye — all the while reassuring myself that I was behaving just fine. My steely tone was covered by a thin veil of smoothness, my grumpy eyes were couched in a tightly smiling face, and surely no outside observer could tell that inside me a venomous storm was brewing. I was a self-congratulated supermom, just establishing a bit of order, when Annie arrested, tried and convicted me in my tracks. A soft little blonde girl, with sweetness in her eyes, she patted my leg and gently inquired: “Mom, why do you have your angry face on?” 

• Sarah Groves is a freelance writer living in Pietermaritzburg.

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