It's the last full day of my annual TIFF widowhood. Noel will be back tomorrow evening after nine days away attending the Toronto Film Festival. For him, it's a busman's holiday; he worked long, hard hours seeing films, tweeting reactions, and writing up several capsules a night before getting up early the next day and doing it again.
I can't pretend his absence has been a crushing burden on my shoulders. After all, his mother was here to take over during the two days I spent at a mountaintop retreat. The kids don't require round-the-clock care anymore. The major changes I experienced were a shortened work day due to the need to pick them up in the afternoon from school, being in sole charge of meals, and that sinking feeling that when a kid has lost something precious in the clutter of their rooms, there's no one else to call for help in finding it.
But it's true that I'm tired as Noel's trip nears its finish line. And I realize with new forcefulness that when the responsibility of family provider and facilitator falls solely on your shoulders, any tiny bit of unexpected good fortune or the kindness of others feels like a huge gift of grace. For instance, I'm looking forward to next week when I can stay late at work for some meetings and events because I know Noel will be able to stay on kid duty.
Today I was arranging the teaching schedule of our departmental faculty for next semester, and one colleague e-mailed me back to say that a mid-afternoon slot wasn't preferable because of the need to be available to pick up his kids if the arrangements he'd made with others to do so fell through. I was able to make some swaps to position his teaching earlier in the day, and his gratitude felt quite familiar to me after these nine days alone. Every little bit helps -- and helps so much that it sometimes changes everything.