As my very busy December freight-trained on, once in a while I would pause, briefly (very briefly), to note that this fourth time around it didn't seem bad. In fact, it seemed downright ordinary. The first snow didn't put me in the hole, the cold didn't chill beyond the bone. It was just winter, a season that I used to love, and that, it seemed, I could love again. As I did my little jig for being all kinds of functional, I did wonder, in that whispered way you sometimes wonder to yourself, whether it wasn't just because I was so busy. End of term is never a time for tea and scones (except if said scones are eaten out of a paper bag in the car as you drive from one place you had to be to the next... um, but if you find yourself in such a position in my city, I can tell you where to get the scones), but the end of your first semester of solo teaching? Definitely not. And yet, it seemed more than suppression. It really seamed my grief season hadn't started, as it had been doing, at the very cusp of the first winter month.
It's not that I wasn't missing A. I was. I am. All the time. It's just that I wasn't knocked back on my ass, the way I usually am this time of year. That is, until I was. New Year's Eve, the day that has been especially hard in past years, tapped me on the shoulder but otherwise kept its distance. And then January 2nd gut punched me, dropped me to the ground, and sat on top of me for a while, apparently thinking deep thoughts. "Four weeks and counting, beyotch," it said, strolling away.
It's grey out. That's more a statement of mood than of actual observation. These days when I venture outside and encounter sunshine, I am surprised. I shouldn't be-- it's winter, not polar twilight. In the meantime, things are happening, most of them even good. I have classes to teach for this semester, and even in the area that doesn't require a lot of prep, so there's hope for family time. Monkey is making progress in some important ways. The Cub is speaking, and turning out to have as wicked a sense of humor as we sort of expected based on his pantomime gags back from the mostly-nonverbal near past. And maybe that's what it's all about-- as always, as in the early days, time stands still for no-one. No matter how much I may want it to pause, to stay, to let me catch my breath, it marches on.
And then there are the new twists. Despite my own firm beliefs and repeated statements to the effect of grief being something that changes with us, something that doesn't really get that much better, but something that we can learn to live with better, despite all that once in a while I surprise myself when I realize that this, whatever this happens to be at the moment, this I did not expect. That is, I keep stepping on the same rake-- the one where it turns out that I do have expectations, even as I tell myself and the world that I do not.
This year, this seems to be the reading of tea-leaves that is momentary and fleeting imagining of what he would've been like now. That's not exactly it-- I can't imagine it, I know I can't. Because, and this thought is not in any way new either, that's what is particularly sucky about our kind of loss-- we know jack squat about these children of ours. But usually, and by that I mean vast majority of the time over the last almost 4 years, I haven't been able to or even tempted to go down that road. He's dead, you see, and so he can't be alive, and he can't be one, or two, or three.
But suddenly now, suddenly I am straining for a glimpse of what he could've been at four. I catch myself straining when the Cub is interacting with older boys, especially the youngest son of our friends, the kid who was supposed to be A's best friend. I catch myself straining when Monkey and the Cub are raising a ruckus inside or laughing like maniacs sledding down the little hill in front of our house. It's only for a second, less than that-- a fraction of a second. But it's there, and as I swat it away, I also wonder why now? Is it because the Cub is speaking? Is it because Monkey was four the year I was pregnant with A? I don't know. All I know is that this is new and newly painful. But also reassuring in that way where the hurt is too real for him to have been a dream.
I am also changing. On January 2nd, as I sat in front of my laptop with tears welling up for no particular reason, I chatted a friend to ask for help. This is not something I usually do, especially not something I do when the reason for needing help is grief. But I took a deep breath and jumped. Not today, I said, but sometime this month, can we have coffee? I am going to need some TLC. She's a good friend, and there's a coffee in my future. One I am looking forward to very much.
How far into this are you? How have your significant dates been for you so far? How have the periods coming up on these dates been? How has all of this changed for you with time? Are there new facets of grief that you are discovering? What are they?