I sit here tonight, unable to sleep, watching a computer screen, and my mind keeps drifting to something I’ve said a lot: there are a lot of milestones ahead and we have to face them in a different way.
I’m approaching that next mile marker.
I made a lot of choices in my life and I have had to face the consequences of those choices. Getting married early was a choice, and that had consequences. 90% of them were great consequences. 10% of them were not. Would I do it over? I think so, though if I had today’s head and heart I might have done some of it differently, but that’s the benefit of the looking glass into the past, isn’t it?
But I always knew there would be things that came up that made life a little harder on me, the kids, all of us. Graduation was one. Abbi was happy as a clam when she found out her grandparents were coming for her graduation. I could also see the disappointment when she realized we couldn’t get them seats for the ceremony. I stayed, as did Hannah and her brother, Sam. But the rest of the seats were full. We planned a shindig that we couldn’t in good conscience, in the end, force people to attend. It was Africa-hot and it was insanely late. Abbi didn’t get home until sometime after 10pm. That’s a college-party time, not a high school graduation reception.
All that day, that night, the whole thing had a spector hanging over it. Andrea’s presence was missing. She’d have despised the minor party, spent too much money and it would have been beautiful. She’d have thought – as my Mom did – that we should have had the reception the next day. I didn’t want to intrude on everyone’s weekend. Abbi was relieved that she’d gotten through the day and was finally about to strike out on her own.
But I saw what was missing, and it’s part of why she’s so excited to go out on her own. Every conversation with a person who doesn’t know about our last two years – how her Mom died in the hospital; how she didn’t get to say goodbye; how everyone told her she’d take up so much of a burden (which I’m pleased to say she admits wasn’t true, after all) because, you know, she’s “only got a Dad.” You know how us guys are, after all, what do we know?
Every new person she meets is fine until the moment when they ask if she’s helping Mom with dinner or going to Anna Karenina with her Mom? She abhors the look, the awkward nature, the questions, and dealing with the grief all over again when someone asks her what happened. She hates that they look at her differently. She hates that every conversation after that conversation is now tempered with the seal of loss. She’s the same person, always was, they just look at her now through mist-covered lenses. She doesn’t like that.
But as I deal with paying for college, looking at the denials for school loans due to my choices in the days and months after losing Andrea – after losing our home due to becoming a single-income family; after changing jobs by necessity . . . all of those choices had consequences. Could I change the bank’s decision on the house? Well, no, and I don’t blame them. I’m not angry. They were right, I couldn’t have made the payments and it was their right. I can’t be angry for that and I don’t begrudge them doing what they had to in order to recoup losses. I totally understand that. The consequence, though, is the ding on my credit that then affects my daughter. Where my wife had creative solutions for everything, I do believe her solutions had consequences that rippled through to the future. I’m facing some of those choices today but my daughter has seen the realities of her Mom’s choices to get what she wanted regardless of consequences and she’s taking stock in reality, not in what she wants at any cost.
But I look ahead to next month and see that I’m watching her go. I don’t hang on, clawing at her to stay or stay close, that’s not the way it is. But I can hear her mother crying in my mind’s memories and see how she’d be reacting. I see the positive side, where Abbi chooses her own dorm bedding and clothing and materials. I see the negative, where the Mom who squeezed her a little too tight and cried in the car on the way home and dropping her off and helping her decorate her dorm room. I can build shelves or put together Ikea furniture.
The next mile marker is approaching and I know we’ll pass it, celebrating, seeing it as it approaches and understanding it’s a major shift in Abbi’s life, in our lives, and moving into the next phase of our lives. Six became five members of the family. Now our daily lives will be four.
But as we approach the marker, Abbi moving a different, parallel path that still will meet with ours through the trail, we all still sail straight into the rising sun.