Lost in the Bottom of a Suitcase
It’s been easy to recount tales of the times when my kids had two parents, when things were bright. Holidays and a tiny house in the Midwest and moving to a larger home in Texas. Those all seem just such easy things to recount and such amazing things to remember. It’s also therapeutic to talk about events as they unfold in our lives and how we’ve had to adjust.
One thing I hadn’t thought about was the fact that, now more than four years removed, that things will spring up as memories from those first days after losing someone you love. It’s easy to understand the melancholy of memories from a song, a scent, or even a taste. You don’t think about what comes in those days just after since you lived them.
Recently, though, I stumbled on something I’d totally forgotten from the first few months after my wife passed away.
Cleaning up the remnants of a trip to visit my family I reached into the side pocket of the suitcase my sons used and found two envelopes. Neither of them was from our trip so I was a bit confounded to find them. Inside were two greeting cards, ones sent to my sons from me during the summer of 2011.
You have to have some context here: my wife passed away in March of 2011, causing unbelievable grief and uproar in our home. In that same stretch of a month or so I changed jobs, we lost our home, everything was a mess. In order to actually concentrate on the work and setting up our rental home my parents volunteered to take all four of my kids back with them for the summer. As needed and appreciated as that was the times at home alone were maddening.
After a few particular conversations over the phone I sent greeting cards to the boys.
I know I sent them to all four kids, but these had been lost to the recesses of their suitcase from the trip to the Midwest. The boys had worked for the newspaper for fun and inserted ads in exchange for some small change. The paper is run by a relative and “worked” is a bit of a misnomer, but it was the same. The boys had said they didn’t get to do the work that week and I had an idea.
My new job had a vending machine that dispensed dollar coins, the kind that look gold and had Sacajawea on them. I got four of them and taped them to the cards. I also wrote notes to each of them, promising to visit them before the summer was over and come back home with them. I made good on that promise, by the way.
I had forgotten the cards, and maybe I had wiped it clear for a reason. The notes are hopeful and talk about how much I loved them and would see them soon. What they don’t reveal is how much of a panic I was under and how I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. Regardless, though, I couldn’t show panic or worry to my kids.
My oldest daughter said something once, and I’m likely quoting it wrong, but the gist is there: as a kid growing up you live with your parents and it’s like living with giants. But losing their mother it was like seeing the giants fall and you can never raise them up again.
They’d already learned their parents were mortal. They needed to cling to the hope that their father had an idea of where to go next, even if he really had no idea.
So reading these notes brought back the heartache for me and how difficult that first 3-6 months was for our family.
My sons? They looked and said . . . “HEY! I forgot these were in here. Now I have two bucks!”