And so it begins.
People trespassing and tap-dancing all over the boundaries we had well in place when you were alive, as though they never existed.
It’s funny, but I’ve noticed, now that you are gone, I may as well be one of our kids. It’s as though when you died, people don’t seem to think you left a capable adult in charge, just a bunch of unruly children. The sort of things people have felt comfortable saying and doing since your death are nothing short of astonishing…
…and might set the Woman’s Movement back 100 years. Shockingly, most of the atrocities have come from other women.
Listen to this email I received from one of my dear friends. And don’t think for one minute anyone would’ve had the nerve to send something as egregious as this unsolicited missive to me “weighing in” on such personal matters as how to raise our children and whether or not we sell our house, way back when you were in the world and we were a team (just a few short weeks ago.)
I happened to check my email mid-day yesterday to see if the realtor, who was due to show our house, was attempting to contact me for the gate code, because it suddenly occurred to me that she and I were communicating exclusively by email, not texting or phoning.
(To add to the stress, the realtor actually pulled up just as I was reading this rather unexpected and unprecedented email. I was surprised our friend had emailed, because unlike the realtor, she and I typically communicate informally by phone and text.)
The first paragraph of our friend’s letter started out by apologizing for a boundary she had breached a few days earlier and assured me that “the last thing in the world she wanted to be in my life was one more person putting undue pressure or stress on me” during this unbearable time of my grief.
And then — her second paragraph proceeded to do that very thing…
In fact, she proceeded to bump everyone else down several notches and move herself up into the lead slot of individuals who had, whether intentionally or unintentionally, added to the weight of the grief load that I am bearing.
So efficient was her message.
She had been over at our house the previous night and quasi-visited with our youngest son for a period of about 8-10 minutes. (I use the term “quasi-visited” because it’s truly a stretch to suggest that 17-year-old boys really visit with women over 40; rather, he politely endured that I had a few ladies over here visiting me.)
In the short amount of time I granted her access to our inner sanctum, she was able to observe, assess and identify areas whereby she felt I could better address our youngest son’s grief and decided to shared them with me via email.
One thing she stated was her opinion that our son was “mortified” I was writing publicly about your death and my grief experience. Naturally, I asked our son about this last night, and just as I suspected, he registered surprise, saying,
“Oh? Have you been writing about Dad’s death in your blog? Good for you! Mom, please don’t get your feelings hurt or anything, but you know I don’t read your stuff! I’m not saying it’s crap or anything, but I mostly read the SparkNotes as it is for my AP English assignments!”
So, just as I suspected, she was wrong about that. You and I had been aware for quite some time that our boys are purposely oblivious to the material I blog about.
Remember last year, before Winter Formal, the “mamarazzi” was swarming around the teens taking pre-dance pictures, and as the flashes were going off in their faces and the kids were being forced into various poses, our son recalled overhearing mothers saying to one another, “That’s A Gingersnap’s Son!” and as they boarded the Party Bus, a few mom’s waved at him calling out, “Tell your mom we love her!”
Remember how he was trying to feign embarrassment, but kind’ve dug it a little? But as far as actually bothering to read my literary content?
I wonder if I could pay the good folks down at SparkNotes to synopsize my blog? You’d think at 600-800 words, it’s already short enough, but not for a teenage boy apparently!
Our friend then launched in to her “concerns” over me possibly selling our house. She said that it appeared as though I was trying to “escape my memories” of you by selling our home so prematurely, asserting that our son was fiercely trying “to hold on to his memories of his dad!” In her ever-so-humble-yet-entirely-
I thought this was interesting for several reasons:
- I’m not the one who wants to sell our house. Our son says it makes him sad to live here. He badgers me every day to call a realtor.
- Our kids didn’t grow up in this house. We’ve lived here 5 years.
- She was only with our boy for 8 minutes that night. (She must be the Boy Whisperer — I need more than 8 minutes to ascertain what our sons want for dinner.) And, remarkably, we never even discussed selling the house in her presence. It might be the longest stretch of time the entire week he didn’t bring up the topic.
I do love this house, but I can and I will sell it if it makes our kids sad to live here. My friend merely read the situation back-asswards as they say.
And I found it quite astounding that anyone would have the giblets to suggest I would ever try to sell anything to ESCAPE my memories of you. The last thing I want to do is ESCAPE my memories of you. And if I did, I’m sorry to say, it wouldn’t be quite so simple as selling mere bricks and mortar.
I would have to sell our children. And some integral parts of my very own self. You’re not in this house. You are in us.
Because I loved you from the very first day I laid eyes on you standing behind the grill in the kitchen on your first day at the restaurant where we worked. You were the New Guy. I noticed you right away as I was walking back to the office to clock-in for my shift.
(I know it took the better part of a year for you to love me back, but don’t feel bad… when you did finally love me back, you loved me better, I think.)
But like that great 20th century philosopher, Rod Stewart, said, “You’re in my heart and in my soul.” I couldn’t ESCAPE your memory even if I wanted to. But please know that I don’t want to. And I will never ever want to.
Your memory lives in our daughters’ full pouty lower lips and their hazel eyes, our oldest son’s high Cajun cheekbones and jawline, our baby’s thoughtful insight and curmudgeonly ways, and our middle child’s indomitable spirit.
You are evident in all five of our children’s wisdom and wit, their swift, persuasive linear and lawyerly-like thinking, their vocabularies, their verbal lilts and inflections, their passion and the way they carry themselves through the world. And their goodness.
Everything about you and about us lives in what God allowed and blessed us to do through our children.
This house was a material possession. It is where we happened to live the last few years we loved each other and our children, but this house is not Us…
And even though most days I really see no point in living my life without you, I steel myself daily to put our children first. Because those kids…those kids are Us.