I have not written much of late, not because my mind has not been filled with thoughts, but I have found that translating the words imprinted on my heart to paper is at the moment a difficult task. Christmas has been a busy season which has provided its own comforts and unique challenges. To have joy surrounding and engulfing me has been anesthetizing and I’ve been swept into a hustled frenzy of Christmas parties, lunches with friends home visiting their families and my own holiday routine, so familiar for much of my life, that structured our Christmas comings and goings. Dinner with my parents and my brother’s family, frenzied wrapping while the children make signs for “Santa’s Workshop” to KEEP OUT! In many ways everything seemed normal, seemed typical and the frivolity carried me along with it as we busily prepared for Christmas Day. Julia was thrilled about Christmas as she better understands the duality of it as both the birthday of Jesus and the day Santa comes to bring you scads of toys, clothes, books and candy, candy, candy! I had moments of sadness and lethargy during these days but overall, I kept my spirits lofty and focused on Julia’s Christmas experience and hoping to not let my grief color her jolly day.
In a typical rookie parenting move my brother, sister in law and I decided to put together Julia’s presents on Christmas Eve after the kids went to bed. Julia was getting a battery powered Barbie Jeep AND a Cinderella bike, which was not assembled at 11:00 p.m. Around 1:00 a.m. we all sprawled out in my parent’s family room with my sister in law and I armed with a wrench and the most convoluted instructions ever written and battled against the infernal bicycle. At 2:30 a.m. it was completed and I had both a feeling of exhaustion and a new found respect for my parents for years of putting together bikes, Barbie dream houses and other childhood toys that my brother and I HAD to get from Santa. But as we worked and struggled with the bike, my heart was sad that here I was putting together Julia’s bike, such a huge milestone, without her father who would have just reveled in watching her speed up and down our driveway. He also would have had it put together about 4 days before, completely perfect because he was really meticulous at tackling projects and amazing us all with his hidden engineering skills! As I sat on the wood floor, hair in my eyes I could almost see him in sitting in my parent’s empty green chair, wearing Grinch pajamas with his feet propped on the ottoman just having the biggest laugh at the three of us cursing and struggling against the infernal handlebars and blue and silver streamers. I can hear him over my shoulder saying, “Seriously Katherine? You let your parents buy Julia a Barbie Jeep? Where is your feminist streak and our strong moral stance of girl empowerment?” He would shake his head, a smile playing on his lips.He should have been there munching on pilfered Chex Mix from the kitchen with a Dr. Pepper in hand just wanting for us to hand over the half constructed mess for him to do it.
It is in a moment like that, moments of joy and togetherness that he is missed most of late. I’ve said it again and again both on this blog and in person to friends that the big days and events are hard but I better prepare for them. I can see them on the calendar and steel myself. It is the spontaneous times of doing FaceTime with his family as we open presents; shucking oysters while laughing and teasing each other on my parent’s back porch; watching Julia and her cousins morph from babies to children to young adults. I miss him most in the missed glances and my fingers freeze as I begin to text him about this guy I heard about who named his kid after a Star Wars character. Because he would have laughed, texted a witty retort and we would have talked about it over dinner. But instead my fingers halt, there is no snappy retort and at dinner I stare across the table at an empty chair.
I survived Christmas but was gobsmacked at the days following, specifically New Years. Many people said various iterations of “I’ll bet that you’ll be glad to see 2013 gone…” and in some ways I am. It has been 9 months of the most terrible days of my life, I have cried until my tears cannot come any longer; I have had conversations with Julia and others that nobody should ever have; and I have lost in an instant the absolute love of my life and the blissful safety that bad things don’t happen. But others have suffered losses of their dearly beloved too. I’m not alone and the number of people I know who have lost mothers, children, spouses this year is truly harrowing. But the passage of time is painful and to now be in the place where I say, “I lost my husband last year…” has a certain ring that I do not like. It is a long time ago, a year. I don’t want to face that time is marching on, and I’m marching on in it alone. So, I both want the restart that a New Year brings but the joy and blissful optimism that I felt last year is not there. I know what can change while you are making resolutions to eat better and exercise more.
My sister in law said it best recently as we were waiting to ring in 2014 earlier this week. It is like we are in a photograph and everything at first glance is right. The friends and family are there, the Christmas decorations are the same as any other year, the children are running and playing. But then you notice a huge gaping hole in the picture because it is not right, it is a bitter gall to see a gaping cavity of the loss we feel in Wesley not being with us. He should be in the picture, smiling broadly and often times it feels like he is just in the other room, with us but just a wall away. Perhaps that is a fitting image as we are separated in body but not in soul. He is in my heart and the hearts of those whom he loved every bit as much today as he was for days and years before he passed. Wesley is a breath away from me.
In these first few days of 2014 I’m once again moved by the love and support I have felt from friends and family. Wesley hated making resolutions as he felt that changes should not be made and abandoned because of a date on the calendar, but should be ongoing. I have only one this year, I hope to give back the care and comfort that has been shown to me and to continue talking about our story and the ways in which Julia and I are managing this new life.