Every week my daughter goes to physical therapy. The last 15 minutes of each session she rides a tricycle around the track at the rehab center.
Every week we pass the same faces as she pedals, mostly elderly patients completing rehab after strokes or surgeries or heart attacks, and they all smile as we pass. Some only smile with their eyes – their mouths aren’t quite able yet.
There is one who doesn’t smile. We pass her each week, over and over again as we complete our laps, her mouth never once curving in the slightest bit of delight as her eyes take in my pigtailed little three and a half year old, pedaling her heart out.
Three and a half years ago I would have thought this woman was just an old crab. I would have wondered what her problem was, just staring at my daughter like that. How could she not smile back at my bubbling girl?
Now I know differently.
I’m sure there is a chance that this woman is, in fact, just an old crab. I have a feeling, though, that she has learned the hard way that smiling takes too much work. Loss and misfortune and that empty feeling of life kicking you one too many times makes smiling each day a battle. She has lost that battle.
Soon after the birth of our triplets, after I held my daughter for the last time, saying goodbye to her in my arms, I quit smiling, too. I quit talking on the phone. I quit answering the door. I quit going to my favorite Starbucks drive-thru because I didn’t want to have to lie and say “I’m good” when they asked me the dreaded question, “How are you?”
But somehow I managed to plaster on a smile here and there. Before long it became a little bit easier. Not too long after that, it started to become a habit and, if I was lucky, I would not even feel a pang of guilt for the expression on my face.
I had a husband to pull me through, a daughter at home and two newborns in the NICU – every single one of them waiting, needing me to be okay. They helped me fight and dig out of the trenches of grief and come up for air.
I’m not always smiling, definitely not. There are days that it takes so much more work than others.
So much more.
I think of that woman often. Every week as we pass her I smile, whether I’m in the mood to or not. She needs a reason.
I hope that one of these days her empty eyes will meet mine and refocus.
Life is much sweeter lived through smiling eyes, even if you’re blinking back the tears.
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you never fail to blow me away with your words.
thank you so much Melissa.
julie Anne Rhodes says
Reading this felt like your hands reached out and quite literally grabbed ahold of my heart. Thank you.
So glad this post touched you. I never used to wonder what other peoples’ stories were until i had such a difficult one of my own to tell. Loss has made me so much more compassionate.
Great post! You have described sadness, grief, heaviness etc better than I ever could. I too, hate answering the question “how are you?” when I know I’m not ok….thanks for sharing.
I\’ve come to hate the question and I know that is awful because people are just being polite.
Wow. I found you while scrolling through some red dress prompts and MAN! This was incredible. So touching. Glad to have happened upon your blog–beautiful writing!
You always write with such emotion. So beautiful.
Congrats on Blogher. Off to sparkle!
Mad Woman behind the Blog says
Oh that last line…brought tears to my eyes. (PG hormones aside.)
I too am a proponent of Fake it till you Make it!
But that woman, she makes me sad, even though I understand.
Martine Brennan says
Oh yes, this is how it is.
Keep smiling Jessica 🙂
Hugs for you.
Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) says
That was so simple, and yet so beautifully written. It’s amazing how sometimes, it just takes time. People don’t always allow themselves to fully grieve or be sad. It’s difficult to move past stuff if you never deal with it.
I’m glad that you’re moving on and smiling and someday, I hope to see it in person.
“There are days that it takes so much more work than others. So much more.”
You are a remarkable woman and your words are beautiful.
I feel so blessed to have find you (thank you #TRDC!).
My heart aches for you and the loss of Hadley and the hole in your heart. I am sending you enormous amounts of peace and love today and always.
New Year Mum says
I love your last line… so beautifully written and so true :)) Thank you xoxo
Oh gosh. I never get tired of reading your words. Amazing!
I love the last line…Life is much sweeter lived through smiling eyes, even if you’re blinking back the tears….. so true!!
Memoirs of a Single Dad says
“after I held my daughter for the last time…” This made me tear up. I’m so glad you haven’t given up on the ‘old crab’ or ‘crabby patty’ as my son and I would say. I love selflessness like that! It’s so reassuring knowing that others are still capable of it.