From the day my sons were born I knew our lives would be completely changed. I didn’t have a crystal ball, I couldn’t see where things were headed. If I’d known how their lives were going to change so drastically I would have done a lot of things differently.
I would have taken a ton more pictures, for one, including forbidding my wife, Andrea from bowing out of the photos. She always thought, even when she was young and spry, that she was overweight, too curvy . . . I really don’t know what all else. She grew up being told she needed to lose weight even when she was young, working the Flag Corps, five foot 10 and almost all muscle. She had curves, yes, but that made her gorgeous, I have to admit.
But Andrea gained weight after having kids. She lost function on part of her face right after the boys were born as a virus invaded her nerve endings and gave her Bells Palsy in 2003. The thing she was most proud of – and it is more than a little vain – was that her smile was now crooked. The thing I told her every day was the fact that she smiled with her whole body. In that picture there you can see she’s got a twinkle in her eyes. Her hands in her pockets and her body just slightly forward like she’s ready to burst out of her own body . . . that was Andrea at her happiest and smiling. When she was happy she was brilliant. When she was sad, the world around her wept.
So . . . fast-forward to 2011. The woman whose influence on our lives was very strong, almost too strong a lot of the time, and things go more than a little haywire.
Toward the end, when the boys were little and at their most formative, Andrea had gotten sick. Not something that caused her death, though the after-effects of it, weight gain (I don’t mean 5-10 pounds, a significant amount of weight) and depression were really hard on her. The result was it was hard on all of us. She was unable to work. She was unable to move around because her knees had worn out all the cartilage and even standing up was painful. She had to take pain killers to function.
But there’s something those detriments to Andrea did that were brilliant for the boys . . . and is hard on them now. She was home. She was home a lot, every day, picking them up from school. Hell, Andrea spent a lot of time at the school, doing wellness checks (Andrea was a Pharmacist and helped with that) flu shots, you name it, she was there. Mother’s Day tea? Andrea was there. She decorated the house, set up their birthday parties, did everything you can think of a little boy from ages 5 to 8 would love to have. When they came home from school Mom was home.
Then she wasn’t.
That change, abrupt, corrosive, violent in its sudden impact was hard. Sam, the youngest of the twins (by, like, 30 seconds) shut down, for weeks. He sat, quiet, staring. He had the TV on and stared out the window. He’s finally come to being far less self-contained than he was.
Noah, the older boy, was really affected. In the first days he was sweet and philosophical and just heartbreaking in his embracing all of us. He changed and as much as he’s a strong personality – much like his Mom – he became far less aggressive and far more sweet in the last two years. He’s also had the hardest time adjusting. He’s not really dealt with the loss of his mother and it’s heartbreaking to know that he misses her so much but doesn’t want to talk about it.
So when the kids came home early from visiting their grandparents, I can see there’s even been a change in the last few months. The boys wake up and check on me in my bedroom as I get ready in the morning for work. I get their breakfast and they keep an eye on me as I make my lunch. If I put my laptop in the car before heading out the door they’re looking out the window to make sure I haven’t left before they gave me a hug and kiss and say “see you tonight, Dad!”
The boys aren’t clinging, I think subconsciously checking to make sure I am still here. They want to make sure I know they love me and they are waiting for me. There’s part of them, maybe one more than another, who wants to make sure I’m coming home tonight.
The closer we get to Fall, the closer to major changes on the horizon, and I think that makes a difference, too. Their oldest sister is leaving for college. They’re attending a new school. In two years of major changes they’re moving to more changes all over again. I’m not sure if they’ll do great or if things will be harder on them. All I can do is assure them that when I drop them at school in the morning I’ll do everything I can to make sure they know I’ll be home that night. If I can’t get there early, dinner will be waiting for them and I’ll be home to tuck them in.
It’s heartbreaking to me to see them that worried. It’s hard for me to know that there are just some things I can’t give them and that in their hearts there’s a part of them still hopes if they’re strong enough or ask hard enough Mom might come back. Part of me wishes I could help that . . . part of me knows that might make things a lot worse.
The closer to Fall the closer to change, but life will keep going. We will keep writing and developing our story and hopefully it will continue to be happier as the days roll on.