It’s that time of year. The school year is winding down, parents and children are preparing for summer.
Last week, we should have been at a seventh grade band concert. My son played trumpet, was fourth chair. He aspired to move higher, yet at the same time acknowledged the three in front of him were, “Really good.”
He should have been prepping for finals now. We would have been waiting on word from the school—what would they do with the seventh graders who were in eighth grade algebra this year? Will they teach geometry at the middle school, or will they bus the kids to the high school? I had been so proud and impressed with his math skills. Oh what he could have done with his life…
I wonder if he would have wanted to attend the eighth grade graduation? He had a few friends who were eighth graders. Would he have wanted to be part of that celebration? It would have made for a busy second week of June, because my daughter is “graduating” from elementary school, as well. There’s something going on nearly every day that week, it seems. I suppose it’s a bit easier only having to manage one kid’s schedule.
Not that I wouldn’t change that situation in a heartbeat, if given the chance.
I wonder how the summer would have gone. We were still hem-hawing over whether to leave the two kids home alone while we were at work. He was responsible enough—to a point. The biggest problem would have been the lake at the end of our road and the temptation to hang out there all day, every day. The idea makes me nervous without an adult chaperone, even if he would have been nearly fourteen years old.
Now we have to figure out summer childcare… again. It’s such an annoying process when your kids are on the verge of not needing it, yet aren’t quite there. And it’s made worse when something devastating happens and suddenly you can’t imagine ever letting your child be alone, ever, for the rest of her life. She’s all I have left, after all.
Normally, I look forward to summer with all the excitement and anticipation of a child, but this year I almost dread it. In July we are laying his ashes to rest. A few days later will be Independence Day, arguably his favorite holiday of all. Oh how that kid loved his fireworks. So much so that we had a picture of one engraved on his headstone.
A few weeks later, we will embark on our annual weeklong summer vacation, when we join my siblings and their families and my father and we all rent a place on a lake and we just… hang out. Together. My son always loved this vacation; it was one of the few times I think he was truly at peace. One of my favorite pictures of him is from last summer. He was lying in a hammock next to the lake, a can of Coke in his hand, a pleasant smile on his face. It will be strange spending that time without him. I really hope we do not all wallow in the sadness of his absence.
Creating new memories from traditional moments is the hardest thing of all, I think. Entirely new experiences are easy; there is nothing to base anything on, nothing to do but enjoy it. A few weekends ago, my new, smaller family unit took an impromptu trip to Florida.
(Note to Midwesterners: May is the time to go to Florida. Plane tickets are crazy cheap.)
It wasn’t until we returned home to Detroit that I realized I had hardly thought of him at all that weekend, and I hadn’t cried once. That’s because there were no reminders, nothing to associate with him. Everything was about the three of us, discovering a new vacation spot, carving brand new memories.
Of course that all changed the moment we pulled into the driveway and I saw the wind chimes we had been given as a memorial gift, his bike on the back porch. I walked inside and the first thing I noticed were all the pictures. His closed bedroom door at the end of the hall. The kitchen, the living room, the basement—it’s all the same. None of it has changed since he changed my life so explicitly ten weeks ago.
And yet, everything is different.
I had a momentary urge to go through the house and collect all the pictures, all the mementos, and store them away somewhere. Just so I would not be reminded every moment of every day. It had been so refreshing, for those few precious days we were in Florida, to not have him, what he did, control my life, my emotions, my actions.
Although, in truth, what happened did control my actions when we booked that trip. We never would have randomly flown to Florida with two weeks’ notice if our family had still been intact. There would have undoubtedly been something going on, and besides, we wouldn’t have been able to afford it, even with ridiculously cheap airfare. It would never have occurred to us. Oh how life has changed.
So I didn’t put the pictures away. I left the mementos hanging on the wall, sitting on my windowsill. And I sat outside on the porch and listened to the wind chimes, gently tinkling in the breeze. And yes, I wished things were different. I do that every day, a thousand times a day.
And then, when my wine glass was empty, I stood up and went inside and started dinner.
Because time marches on, and for the living, so does life.
Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and is using blogging as therapy while trying to figure out how to live life after the tragic death of her teenage son. When she isn’t doing that, she’s writing happily ever afters, which can be found on her website, www.tamilund.com.