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VEEDER: Children remind us to breathe despite worry

By Staff | Dec 22, 2017

Rosalee Gene came into this world quickly on Friday, Dec. 1, at 9:14 am. Before she was born we hadn’t decided on a name, so we agreed we would need to meet her first.

And when I met her I knew. I looked up at my husband looking down at the squishy, slimy, dark-haired little human resting on my chest and he said he knew too.

“You say it first,” he said.

“Rosalee,” I said.

“Yes. I think so too. Rosalee.”

Tears filled his eyes when he said her name out loud, and we both breathed a sigh of relief that she was here, healthy and wailing, lifting a small fraction of the weight of worry we’ve been carrying throughout the last month.

As I type this, Rosie is laying beside me, sleeping deeply the way new humans do. And 600 miles away my mom is sitting by my dad’s bedside in the ICU in a hospital in Minneapolis as he fights for his life, battling a pancreas that is dying on him.

Since Rosie’s birth he’s taken a turn for the worse, which, we’ve learned, is the nature of this condition. One day there’s improvement, the next there’s a crash.

It’s unbearable, this wait and see, the miles between us, hearing my mom’s tired voice on the other end of the line. Our hearts stopping at every ding of our phones.

And it’s frustrating that the only way we can be there for them is to be here, taking care of our daughters and the ranch and each other while we wait on the news.

Before Rosie arrived I wanted to hold her safe in my womb until our lives were put back in place the way she deserved them to be when she entered this world, as if I had control of such things.

Now I know better. To be simultaneously happy and terrified is exhausting, but we needed her here with us, to keep us busy, to make us smile and to patch the aching parts of our hearts up with hope.

Last weekend we loaded up the pickup with the girls, my little sister and baby niece to take a drive across the ranch looking for a wild cedar to cut for our Christmas tree. This is a ritual we started with Dad when we were just little girls, and it felt good to be out there, working to keep in the tradition of the holiday. We rolled and bumped slowly along prairie trails and fence lines, stopping to watch a herd of elk cut through a clearing and up along the horizon.

“Look at that Edie,” we exclaimed. “Look at the elk!”

“Ohh,” she replied, her eyes wide with wonder before turning to me and asking, “But where are the hippos?”

And sitting side my side the cab of the pickup, dressed up warm for a long, cold season, our frazzled nerves were calmed for a moment as we all let the air out of our lungs and laughed.

And I said a quiet prayer of thanks for these children who remind us to keep breathing.

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and two daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.

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