Most of the time my evenings are difficult – not because of loss or grief but because of sheer exhaustion. The amount of work any one child creates for their parents is pretty substantial. The amount of work four children create isn’t just four times the amount it’s exponentially higher. I don’t have the exact formula, but it’s got to be something to the fourth or fifth power, not simply squared. For that reason up until the last week or so it’s been more about collapsing to sleep than it really has anything else.
But after yesterday’s philosophical discussion about the acceptance letter Andrea received to Creighton University I began to feel things I hadn’t realized were creeping up on me.
Today, I got the ring I’d ordered. It has the date – 3/26 stamped by hand in Roman numerals – III XXVI. It’s just rough and textured enough to match me, I suppose, both my feelings and my demeanor. I guess I appreciate getting it today because for some reason it’s really weighed on me. So many things I want to talk about and share and have the joy or sharing with someone and I don’t have the one person I really wish I could share them with. It’s not a woe-is-me attitude, I realize it sounds that way, but it’s not.
My daughter is going to the Prom. It’s not with a date, no, and she’s not having the perfect evening, I suppose, but I helped to make this happen. I found a dress. I helped her pick out shoes thanks to an amazing friend of mine. I set up getting her hair done and her day taken care of. She’s talking about college. I look at those things and wish I had someone I could tell about them and talk about them and just marvel at how far she’s come. Someone beside the ceiling fans and the light fixtures in the house.
The thoughts and feelings that well up in me are ones that I wish I had discussed with her in the past. Sometimes the words deep down are easy to ignore, as the song says. So many things about what our vision was for our kids’ futures and what kind of boys and men our sons would become are all things we had only broached and never really talked about.
Then there’s just the intimacy of another knowing you the way you hope they do. I realized looking at that acceptance letter that I hadn’t – not in all the times I travelled or stayed behind to clean up the sale of our house, or a million other trips – I never sent a letter to my wife when we were married. How silly is that? We all love getting mail. I mean, sure, we talked on the phone, we shared our lives, but how intimate and thoughtful is a letter, you know what I mean? Spur of the moment was always so much harder for me and the opportunity to write down those words, to share them, that is something I wish I had done.
So I realize now, after so many long months, what I am missing. It’s not a cry for help or a determination that I want to just go out and find someone. It’s that I have all these things in front of me: the 8th grade and high school graduations; the college ceremony; the weddings, grandchildren, all of them are going to happen and I’ll be the only one there. It’s not just that it isn’t fair, and that’s true, it’s that I’m coming to the realization that this is it: there is no other path. I have to keep writing this story because the other one truly has ended.
I worry about our kids, having so much time to contend with knowing they only have me as their parent. Sure, I got the dress and all that stuff but it’s your Mom that you want to do makeup and hair and talk about boys and who you dance with and who you want to dance with. Sure, they have aunts and friends but they’re just not Mom.
How do I know this? Because I suffer from the same thing. I have all these things, amazing friends, colleagues, people who want to help, and I’d be glad to talk with them, sure, but it’s just not the same. It’s not Andrea. This woman understood me and listened and I realize now that I wish I told and asked her so many more things. I wish I’d been far less selfish and far more loving. I do miss being able to look over and just smile, feeling the warmth, and for no reason say “I love you.”
I think ahead to when the kids are gone and wonder what I will do? Where will they be? Where will I go? I don’t see myself with another person, not really. Maybe that will change, maybe something will happen I least expect. But then again, maybe things will be like this. Maybe it’s time to travel the worlds, see the Pyramids like I’d always wanted. Maybe I could ask the BBC if they have an opening for a silly, crazy Yank who wants to live in England for ahwile.
The thing is, those aren’t thoughts or dreams I want and am glad I have them. They’re thoughts and ideals that I’d postulated to my wife and now I don’t have her here to tell me how silly they are or how impractical they are. Maybe that’s for the best, maybe I use my imagination more and find some adventure.
But for the most part, I find the words deep in my heart are the easiest and most necessary to ignore now. Silence ain’t golden, and maybe that’s why I write the things here every night.
But I do wish I’d had more time to say those words, and most importantly, to hear hers again.