We’ve done pretty well since the anniversary of one year came and went. I hate to say things went better, my step a bit lighter, the kids a bit less weighed down, but it certainly started to seem that way. That isn’t to say things don’t affect us because they always will. I suppose that is the one thing that others who have never experienced this will never quite understand. There are so many random things that will hit us out of left field. I’ve said before that it’s not the big anniversaries: the day she died, her birthday, Christmas, none of those hit us quite as hard. People don’t get that. Sure, they’re hard to deal with but we see them coming from miles away. We can look to that bump in the road and plan a way around it.
Yet last night is a perfect example of something that we’ve probably watched more than a few times and never gave a second thought. A few years ago Disney made a movie with the actress Amy Adams called “Enchanted” that had storybook characters suddenly thrust into the real world. The actress’ character suddenly in the home of a father who is raising his daughter alone, the Mom having disappeared for whatever reason. That in and of itself isn’t what hit everyone.
Somewhere toward the end of the movie the little girl decides to help the “princess” to get clothes and everything she needs for the “King and Queen’s Ball” by – and I just love this message! – grabbing Dad’s emergency credit card. At a certain point she’s in a hair and nail salon with Amy Adams and asks the simple question:
“Is this what it’s like?”
(Amy Adams:) “What?”
“Going shopping with your Mommy.”
“I don’t know, I never went shopping with my Mommy either, but I like it!”
Now, bear in mind, the two kids who were probably most affected by this were my sons. That’s where I’m fortunate, I suppose. Whenever we were forced to go shopping with my mother we kicked, screamed and yelled through the whole process. It was never fun, took too long, and we drove our Mom nuts. “Fun” was never part of the agenda. Planned torture, for all involved, was more like it. But the feeling in the room was definitely more palpable than before. I’ve mentioned before that the thought of future events, the proms, pictures, holidays, marriages even weigh on me fairly heavily because of the fact that so much of my kids’ future is no longer similar to everyone else’s. Where their friends’ Moms will cry at their weddings they will have me. (Not to say I won’t cry, the most random things get to me lately) My daughters will have me to walk them down the aisle, but no Mom in the sacristy primping and posing them so that they look just perfect for their day.
The difference tonight compared to the other nights up to this point is that the feeling was palpable, but passed. It’s exactly as I said up there. It’s a line that gave us all pause, but that’s all it is, a pause. If we dwell on the fact that we don’t have these things we’ll never move ahead and that’s the worst thing in the world for us. By no means should anyone take this as some idea that I’m “ready to move on” and looking to replace their Mom. I’m not. She can’t be. They loved their Mom like they can love nobody else. I am now thrust into the same roles.
But where my relationship with my wife was so close and so intense, we also had so many conversations, both intimate and mundane, that I have at least some idea of what I’m doing now. Little things, even “female” things are not foreign to me. I used to buy tampons and panty liners for my wife at the store, even knowing what she needed. Her PMS was so bad I knew exactly when it was coming and what time of the month it was likely to hit. So when my daughter was upset and couldn’t figure out why her jeans fit differently and seemed to gain weight but was working out more and eating better than she has in the last couple years I had the great pleasure of actually knowing that water weight, muscle gain and all the other down sides to being a girl were the things causing her problems this week. Doesn’t mean she didn’t doubt me, looking at me askew on the couch, but I could confidently say that if she just kept working out, drinking lots of water, maybe adding a cup of coffee or tea extra to reduce the water, she might feel a little better. The fact that I could have this conversation and make her feel more confident in herself made us both feel better.
It’s the lines that give you pause, the random events – a smell, a sight, a song that fires your synapses, the memories exploding in your head – sometimes even a random line from a movie can force you to think about things you never thought would affect your lives. Don’t take that to mean we’re healed and everything is perfect, sunshine and rainbows. I’ve said before, and I believe it, that this wound never heals. You learn to live with the pain and the sorrow until one day the memories and the thoughts make you smile in memory more than they make you cry in pain. That day’s not here yet, but at least now we can think it may be coming.
The lines that give you pause, though, sometimes give you necessary time to think. The best part is, after a full year, that pause doesn’t make us stop, it just slows us down a little.