Cheryl Hughes: One of the Herd
A family is something I thought I would never have, could never have. Mine was so broken when I was growing up. For years, I believed that one day, we would all love one another and accept one another, but it never happened, so I gave up. I resolved myself to the fact that I might find individual love, but I would never have a family of people who loved me. I told my husband, Garey, that I didn’t want children because they would grow up to hate me like I had seen happen with my sisters and my parents.
Thank God that Garey is a persistent fellow. I have a family, an actual family of people who love me. I know this because I have cried all day today. Our daughter, Nikki, came in to see us. She brought her boyfriend, Thomas, and his dog, Dexter, along. Nikki lives near New Orleans and works for the Louisiana State Fisheries Department. She was here for four days and left early this morning, hence the crying all day that I have done.
I miss her so much when she’s not here. It is a mother’s kind of missing. The kind that pictures a daughter as a toddler with a balloon or a young girl with bangs that need trimming. The kind of missing that causes physical pain and near mental paralysis. The kind that keeps you glancing at the clock and estimating what town she’s travelling through now.
Garey tried to comfort me. He promised we would go visit this summer. We could stay a few days, he said. After all, she lives much closer now, just nine hours away, not fifteen and a half like when she lived in Galveston. All of this helps but doesn’t help. It’s not just that I want to see her. I want to be near her. She is the kind of person who works too hard and carries too much. I want to help her. I want to carry some of the load for her, not be just another tourist in New Orleans.
She and Natalie and Sabria and Garey are my family—a family I never believed possible. The gift has made me selfish. I want to keep them for myself. I don’t want any one of them to leave. I’m like Thomas’ dog, Dexter. The two of us have separation anxiety. We want to keep the herd together. Dexter and I bonded while he was here. He would mourn every time Nikki and Thomas left the house. I would try to comfort the both of us with food—Dex ate chicken, I ate cake. We would sit together on the couch, his little head in my lap. Nothing really worked. It was a sadness that couldn’t be assuaged by anything less than the return of the two missing members.
After the paper route this morning, I told Garey that we need to start eating better—me, of the honeybun cake and Reeses cup breakfast—and exercising and taking care of ourselves, so we can live long enough to be able to take week-long trips to see Nikki every few months.
“That’s a good idea,” he said, allowing me to hold on to the bit of rainbow I had conjured up in my mind. “That’s why I love him,” I thought, “That’s why I love them all. They allow me my dreams. I’m one of the herd, after all.”