I haven’t had a wave of grief wash over me in what feels like years; though the truth is probably about 5 months ago around your anniversary.
A wave began to splash me about four weeks ago. I should know the signs now by now – feeling sensitive, reading too much into people’s language, feeling like crying over anything, struggle putting a sentence together. Laundry, oh God. Laundry! Taunting me in all of its pile of glory. No, I don’t see the signs until the wave has settled again. But it happened and I wasn’t sure why. It was the day of my birthday. For weeks, I kept putting the day to the back of my mind for various reasons, like: we are living in a pandemic who cares about my birthday! I’m just trying to get these kids through the school year. I need to stay on top of my “to-do” lists. My birthday was last on the priority list as we had unexpected “mini” family emergencies in the past month. The day came and I didn’t even realize it was my birthday until a reminder came up on my phone to remind me of our nieces birthday; which happens to be the same day as mine. I remembered at approximately 6 a.m. as I stood in front of the bathroom sink with a toothbrush in my mouth reviewing my calendar and lists for the day. I scrolled past that reminder as quickly as I could making a mental note to text our niece and offer a coffee on my way to the office so that I could wish her a “Happy Birthday”. Hoping no one would dare text me or call me that day. For whatever reason I knew if they did it would trigger a waterfall of tears.
I got in my car, kids buckled, and hit send on the text message: “Happy Birthday! Do you want anything from Starbucks?” She declined. I knew she would. She always does. She’s too polite to take and often declines even when offered, especially on a day like her birthday. I had already planned out her gift anyway. I dropped the kids off to school (masks – check, backpacks – check, lunch in those backpacks? also, -check!) Wished our babies a good day and drove to Starbucks for my free coffee drink. I walked into my office unbothered and dove straight into work. One text came through, it was like you heard my wish to be left alone and I was grateful…that one text was all I could manage. I was even hoping family members may overlook this day. I logged into Facebook, saw a number of notifications and clicked them knowing that it was well wishes for this day. I quickly thanked each one for their sincere birthday wish and logged off as soon as I could feel the shiver in my throat. Back to work. Pick up kids. Go to therapy with kids. Home. Missed call from brother – he’s going to wish me a happy birthday, no, no, no, no. I can’t. I don’t return his call. Again, lucky! He was busy at work and could barely catch his breath to try calling me again. I think I spoke to my mom briefly?…Yes, yes I did. I changed the topic as quick as I could.
I turned the shower on and let the water muffle the sound of my actual tears. I couldn’t avoid the wave of grief anymore. It was inescapable now. It was everything. Everything from realizing that our son would be going to middle school now. How is that possible? Our daughter – who wasn’t even 1 years old when you died is starting kindergarten? How have we lived this long without you. How am I 35? I realized during this shower/cry that was it. I am 35. I am just one year shy of the age you were when you died. I can’t continue to get to 36. I can’t ever imagine being 37…living past the age you died. How am I supposed to do that?! How? When often time feels frozen – like I’m still stuck in 2016, like you just died and suddenly I realized life moved on…it moves on. It will and I can’t stop it no matter how much I protest. Our kids are growing up without you. How? It’s not fair.
Their questions never stop about you, yet they continue to grow; which also means their questions become more existential and complex. Lord help me if this little girl isn’t satisfied with my current explanation of why you had to die. How do you answer a question like that? “Mom why did dad die?” why? There is no damn good reason why. There is nothing I can say to answer you why. There is no justification for why. There is no logical reason. I cannot, should not, will not answer. “I don’t know my love, he died and he shouldn’t have died” as if that’s not enough (of course it’s not) “Why shouldn’t he have died mom?” “Because he was a good person. Good people die every day and they shouldn’t, but they do, it isn’t fair is it?” My attempt at spinning this around and asking HER a question in a defensive tactic to steer the conversation on her. I know, I know, it’s totally not fair, a total lame mom move to manipulate our daughter because I’m not strong enough to give anything but some kind of empty faithful, hopeful, bullshit answer and then turn it into a question because, I’m triggered. She’s looking up at me as if she’s reading right through my bullshit and if she doesn’t just shrug her shoulders at me she’ll say something to this idiotic question like, “That’s stupid mom”…my shameful, “I know”. All this to say that on my birthday, I couldn’t hold it together anymore. I know it’s ok. I also, know there is no shame in giving in during these moments and just allowing myself to ride the wave. I know the following days will be riddled with depression, loneliness, and maybe some more crying. But I also know it’ll pass…the wave dissipates, the water settles, I feel peace return, joyous moments that make me laugh and smile again all while in the back of my mind wondering when the next wave comes? Will it be next week? Next month? Holidays? A year? I never know. But until the next wave comes, I will get laundry done.
I love you, I miss you, I want you home.