He’s getting ready to leave. It’s just an all-day ski trip with his friends, but the next day he will leave for a two-day camping trip with another friend’s family. I’m sitting with him in the early dawn, as we wait for his ride, making small talk, and I’m grateful that the house is quiet, even though everyone is already awake. I’m grateful, because I have so much to think about, yet I want to stay focused on what he’s saying… in these last few minutes before he leaves.
I’m cheering for him on the inside, right on the cusp of so much fun and adventure. Part of me wants to push him out of the door and say, Go!! Have a blast! When he gets back, I imagine him being relieved to finally be home again. That welcome place where you can just drop your guard, relax, and rest. It’s not until you leave someplace, that you realize how great and perfect it truly is. As my son begins venturing off he will discover, maybe for the first time, how important home is to him.
But, this place, this place he calls home, just doesn’t feel like home to me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful for my home, but there’s something missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. This is the place where I work hard.
This is the place where I cook, clean, clean-up clutter, and try to find the right places to hang pictures, while I continually yell to “Stop wrestling!” When I’ve moved away from here, I’m sure I will remember it differently. I’m sure I will think this was heaven.
It’s difficult to relax here. I need to put my head down someplace else. There’s another place I need to be. The image that keeps popping up in my mind is the one place I can no longer enter. The place that died when my Mom died.
I think of the other parents who are going along with the boys today. I realize I need more help with these boys. I need Grandma to take the little boys for the day, so I can be there for my older son; to talk with the Mothers of his peers. My Mom only lived a few miles from the very ski resort they are all headed to today. It would have been so easy to just pop over, drop off the kids, and be off. I almost feel as if I am the child… only I’m not allowed to go today.
As we sit, waiting for his ride, I imagine my Mom, as if she were still alive, getting the house ready for the boys… putting up the quilting needles, pulling out the cookies, and pulling out the blankets for the living room picnic they’d have.
Grief is thick. It has a way of remaining unconfined… it seeps underneath doors after you have them closed. It makes its way known even on the brightest days.
The words of that not-so-kind minister come into my head now. During one of my lowest points of grief, he said “What if it had been one of your little boys who died instead of her? You should be grateful that you didn’t loose one of them.” What he doesn’t understand, and what I couldn’t say, is that I am grieving for them… for what they have lost too. They have lost a Grandmother, and all the memories and privileges that go along with being her Grandson.
They have lost this day… a day spent playing at Grandma’s house while Mom was busy playing in the snow.
After my son leaves, the phone rings. I don’t want to answer it because I’m too busy thinking and stewing. I must find a way, I think, to figure out a way to make this loss up to me, and my children. It’s hopeless, I realize. I can’t do this alone. We are just doomed. This wasn’t the way I had imagined my life playing out.
I answer the phone. My friend, who I have not see in a long while, starts running down the details of her son’s birthday party. I begin to listen when I hear her say, “No, it’s today,” Today? How can it be today, I thought it was tomorrow? This changes the entire day’s agenda, as I scramble to re-organize.
“So,” she adds, “after the ice skating party, we’re all coming back to our house for drinks and pizza, and we’ll start a fire, and you are all welcome to come. Around 5. OK?”
I start to cry on the phone. She doesn’t know why, and I can’t tell her, because I don’t either. I calculate in my mind that my son will be back in time to come with us at 5. Tonight, we’ll all be together with this group of friends we have known for so many years. Through engagements, marriage, pregnancy, birth and growing pains.
She’s worried about me, and I tell her the truth. “No, I’m not OK, but I am fine.”
Is this home? No, not completely, but today, this will do. “This will do fine,” I tell her. “You’ll see us at 5.” I hang-up the phone, and for the rest of the day, I feel connected to something bigger, and begin to wonder if it just might be possible to return home again.