Let's start with The Happy. Young Son is graduating from college next week and there are many things that have to be finished before that joyous occasion arrives: plastic removed from every room in the house (even though the painters are (still) not finished), guest rooms prepared for Married Daughter and Son-in-law who are flying in from Pennsylvania, and invitations mailed. (Yes, we are in somewhat of a time crunch here, due to many circumstances beyond our control.) D's cancer extended throughout Young Son's high school and college years. He has worked hard to put himself through and will be exiting with a degree in English/Mass Communications. This is a family seriously in need of a celebration and Young Son has given us the perfect venue.
Then, there is The Crazy. I am a first grade teacher. There are 20 days of school left. You do the math. Every year at this time I always think we should be given hazardous duty pay, like when the military is deployed to the most dangerous and difficult locations. The good news is: I am "looping" with my students, and will have this same wonderful bunch as second graders next year. Can't wait. After I have a summer off to recover from the month of May.
And last? There is The Unthinkable. I've finally stumbled upon the anniversary of dates from last year when D was told his life would only last a few more months. I never thought I'd be the person who clicked off the dates in my head, yet here I am: Last year on Mother's Day weekend, we celebrated with Young Son and his girlfriend on Saturday, and other family members on Sunday. We went home to buy plane tickets online to Seattle (to visit D's youngest daughter) and Las Vegas (to see Barry Manilow, before he pulled that little cancellation shenanigan). "Let's wait until after my MRI results next week", D said. That Wednesday he woke me up in the middle of the night to take him to the emergency room with pain too difficult to manage at home. Followed by a biopsy. And a doctor's visit to hear: one to three months at best.
I cannot remember exactly what we said as we sat in the car trying to process The News. I do remember going to a restaurant and deciding how best to tell the kids. And boxing up our untouched food. I do remember going in before dawn to tell my principal I'd be missing the last week of school for a final hospital visit to drain D's lungs. I do remember saying good-bye to Young Son as he left for his summer study abroad in Costa Rica, and making contingency plans in case he should need to come home quickly. (He did.)
And the memories of a time I was numbed to a year ago continue to roll over me, with a sadness so profound I sometimes find it difficult to breathe. It is not the brittle-as-broken-glass feeling I experienced soon after D's death. It is more like a weighty shroud descending over me. Just heavy and inescapable.
I feel like if I can just get past July 13, the date of the ultimate loss, I can stop making markers in my mind. By then I will have passed every holiday, birthday and anniversary without D. Even as I'm trying to convince myself of this, I stumble upon an article that says the second year is even harder for a widow because there is no more denial to hide behind. Drat. Not sure if I'm buying a ticket to that dance.
One thing they kept asking in my grief class: is it possible for joy and pain to co-exist? Well, yes. But I'm looking for the day when it's the joy that causes the bubble to tilt off plumb.