If you compare our lives to how they were a little more than a year ago, there is so much that is different. Nearly unrecognizable, even though our faces and our clothes and cars are the same. You could be saying, "No Shit, Sherlock, your son is gone. Of course everything is different!" and that would be true. But I guess I just did not know what to expect, so I am continually surprised.
You know those annoying books, "What to Expect When You're Expecting"? Even if I'd read about all the potential changes we could experience with grief, I don't think I'd have been able to process the information. At the time of Jack's accident, the smaller changes, or collateral losses, wouldn't have mattered to me anyway. The only thing that mattered was not knowing what his last seconds were like. Not being there to hold him when he died. Never snuggling with him again. Okay, maybe there are a lot of "only things."
In general, I'm not all that comfortable with change. It doesn't energize or excite me. If my steady-Eddie personality hasn't sunk in with you by now, let me give you a few illustrations. I'm 43 and live in my hometown. When I finished grad school I returned to teach 10th grade in my old 10th grade English classroom. I attend the church where I was baptized and confirmed. Jack played with the same Fisher Price toys in the church nursery that I did.
I wanted to buy back my family home someday so I could raise my kids there. I even wrote a letter to the new owners asking them to please contact me if they would be willing to sell. I wanted my kids to climb the tall trees dubbed "The Titanic" and "The 3-Double Tree" in the back yard and bury their goldfish in the "pet cemetery" by the fence. They could pick tiny wild violets out of the grass and bring them to me as a gift and suck that one sweet drop of honey off of each honeysuckle blossom in the side yard. I wanted them to walk to school across the street, and go to the pool down the block, hiding their snack money under the folded corner of their towels.
I guess you could say I like to bloom where I'm planted and my roots run deep. It gives me pleasure to be the steady one. The one with institutional knowledge. The one to make people feel comfortable and safe.
On the surface, many things do still look the same around here. I still wear my blue fleece bathrobe and penguin pj's from the thrift store-- the banana clip in my hair predating my 1991 college graduation. I still come up empty when I need lunch packing ideas in the mornings and dinner every single relentless night. Margaret still sits in "her" seat in the car. Shadow ignores my commands. We arrive bickering at 9:45 for the 9:30 church service. We still eat ice cream every night.
But our friendships have changed. Some friends have retreated in their own pain, while others have drawn closer to us. It is often hard to be in groups because loss hangs heavy over us. We no longer dwell in the world of both boys and girls. We feel like misfits.We do not have a middle school child, about to head to high school. When talk turns to dating and Algebra and droves of kids loitering at Chipotle or walking into town, our heart stings, and we come up empty.
We drive through town, and there are more changes to see.
The independent toy store closes. Then the pet shop where I used to take the kids to see the tropical fish. We hear our favorite Mexican restaurant might be next. We fiddle with our iPhones at stoplights, unable to sit with the silence and boredom that would have seemed normal just 2 or 3 years ago.
I think of the elderly, and all the change they have seen in their lifetimes. So much change; so much loss. I am amazed at their resilience. What about my grandparents who have seen so much change at such dizzying speed? How do they do it? How do they adapt and keep moving forward?
Because I'm tired of adapting. I don't want a damn thing to change ever again.
Or maybe I don't really care, because for all the changes we are going through, and for how frustrating they are, change might piss me off, but it certainly doesn't scare me anymore. I think I would be unfazed if you told me we were moving to Jakarta next week. Or that we'd been selected to colonize the moon.
Whereas in years past I would consider losing a friendship, changing churches, switching jobs, or moving away from my hometown to be tragic and terrifying, driving me to obsessive rumination, I think now they would just leave me saying....meh.
As my sister said this summer, upon learning she and her family would be moving on very short notice, leaving a town town they loved, "Anna, I used to think moving would be the end of the world. We've seen the end of the world
, and this ain't it."