UGH! I should be used to this crazy emotional roller-coaster ride. But I am not. It is just too crazy to get used to.
This past week has been a hard one. My husband told me, at the beginning of the week, that this holiday, Thanksgiving Day/week seemed harder than any so far. I knew he was having a very hard time, missing our middle son, but I remember watching him stand at the head of our oak dining table, with all but one of our children and grandchildren sitting around the table waiting for him to pray so they could eat, and he couldn’t speak for the choking feeling in his throat and the tears rolling down his cheeks, that first Thanksgiving after our son passed away. This year was not that hard.
But it is harder in a different sort of way. The longer he is gone, the deeper the missing becomes. The longing intensifies. It doesn’t wane, like after a grandparent passes away after a long and full life. It goes deeper. It hurts a bit more with each holiday that comes and goes without him here to celebrate it with us.
After a very emotionally difficult first few days of this week, preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with our children and grandchildren, my hubby and I decided to go out for dinner on Wednesday night, the night before the big day, and relax after a long day of baking pies and preparing any dish that could be prepared beforehand. There’s something about making plans to go out that makes it a bit more fun. And we felt it, by the time the time arrived to go out.
We were almost giddy with anticipation, as we left the house for our destination for dinner, our favorite steak-house, Outback Steakhouse. Our drive was relaxing and filled with casual conversation, not conversations about our loss, which always include tears, but normal married couple conversation. We arrived and entered the building, still smiling and enjoying the moment. When we were seated and had ordered drinks, my husband looked at me and asked, “What makes it different?”. I knew what he meant, but asked anyway, “What do you mean?”, to which he replied, “Why is it fun sometimes, and other times not so much?”
Ah, the great dilemma in the life of bereaved parents. What does? We both said at the same time, “I don’t know.”
We don’t know. It is just a constant emotional roller-coaster ride.
But we thoroughly enjoyed our evening at Outback the night before Thanksgiving Day. In fact, we both commented on how foreign it felt to actually feel happy. We loved it.
I always think a happy evening means I am done grieving and life will return to “normal”. One would think, by now, I would know nothing could be further from the truth, as what we considered “normal” before our son died, no longer exists. It is gone forever.
So Thanksgiving morning came, and I awoke with the residual effects of the evening before still lingering in my mind, and I thought it would be a happy day. Then the reality of life hit me, the tears started, which brings on the frustration and anger of being unable to control my emotions, and the day took a slightly disappointing turn. I had hoped I could be “normal” on a holiday, and truth be told, I am. But it is this “new normal” everyone told me about when our son passed away 3 years ago, not the normal I long for. So, back down the hill we go.
I struggled through the preparations throughout the day, looking forward to seeing our children and grandchildren in the evening. I even made jello, or jelly, as our 3-year-old grandson calls it, to honor our missing son. It was his favorite (which boggles my mind!), and I never made it (because it boggles my mind!), but this year I did. I even put it in the Pyrex bowl I brought home from his apartment the day we cleaned it out – the 2nd most awful day of my life.
It was a hard day, but I so love seeing and hearing all(most) all of my children and grandchildren laughing, talking, playing, and enjoying the food I prepared for them, that it ended feeling like it usually does – exhaustion mingled with love and treasured memories.
Then comes the day after the big day, and back up I go! I awoke remembering the years past when it was just Dan and I – b.c. – before children. I loved the casual, day after feeling of nothing to do, back in those days. Our moms or grandmothers always prepared the holiday meal, so there was no day-after clean-up for us to do, or work the next day, so the feeling of “we can do whatever we want to” was always a delightful way to end the holiday week. And we usually went to a movie.
So, being back up on the top of the roller-coaster ride, and knowing there was a new Christmas movie out, I thought that would be a good thing to do. Dan, being Dan, was outside working in his new garage, but he was ready for a fun day, as well. We were both “up” and had a great time going out to lunch with our youngest, and recently moved out on her own, daughter, then a movie and some popcorn, followed by a quiet evening at home with turkey dinner leftovers, which are the best!
On the way home last night we revisited our conversation of the night before Thanksgiving Day, and asked ourselves again, “What makes some days so hard, and other days not so hard?”
We have no answer to that question.
But, like I told Dan in response to our unanswerable question the second time around, “I think I’m done trying to figure this thing out. I’m just going to throw my hands up in the air and scream, ‘weeeeeeeee’ as we fly down the hill!”