When the kids were young, Don would drive them to school and they would sing this song on the way down the hill.
“Every day is a winding road, I get a little bit closer.
Every day is a faded sign, I get a little bit closer to feeling fine.
…Jump in let’s go. Lay back, enjoy the show.”
I never knew if he sang it as a little life lesson, or just because it was a fun song to sing. I suspect the latter. But he knew how to jump in and enjoy the show.
Me, I love maps. I like to look at where I’m starting and see where I’m going. I enjoy the perspective that a map gives me. I can see the big picture, and figure out how long it should take me to reach my destination. I’m not much of a journey person. To me the joy is more in the “there” than in the “getting there”.
In mid-July Carrie and I went back east for a whirlwind trip to see family and friends. We started with Don’s sister Kelly, and much of their extended family. After 30 years, they are my family too, and it was nice to connect with all of them. We then drove to Charleston, SC to visit my stepmother Madge. We stayed at the resort where our family had vacationed for the past two summers. So many emotions and fun memories.
After a week Carrie and I headed in different directions: she was off to Montauk to visit her roommate, and I went to Richmond, then Annapolis to visit friends from college who have known Don and me since the very beginning. So much history. So many stories. A few days later I headed home, physically rested, but emotionally spent.
What I didn’t realize in the two weeks I was gone was that I was beginning to move from the “shock” stage of grief, to the “reality” phase. Another step along the journey.
There is a little less fogginess and fuzziness these days. I don’t feel as forgetful. But with that little bit of clarity comes an immense sadness. An emotional exhaustion. This is real. This is life. This is my life.
This journey is fraught with roadblocks and detours. I miss having two pairs of eyes to view the world. Someone else to help read the map. I miss having two sets of ears to listen to thoughts, opinions, conversations. Having a sounding board for ideas. Forks in the road? I desperately miss another “yes” or “no” for making decisions.
I’m at our beach house for a few days. I don’t know for how long. I just felt the need to pull away a bit to think and pray and feel. About what, I’m not sure. I left La Canada the other day to come to the beach, and at the last minute I grabbed a stack of DVD’s that had been in our bedroom TV cabinet for years.
When I came down here I had so many questions. Should I be looking forward? Or am I supposed to look back? Am I avoiding life by pulling away? Or accepting and embracing the pain? Who does God want me to be in this grief? I still don’t know.
But for the past three days I’ve been watching and listening to old family movies, the stack of DVD’s I grabbed as I went out the door. In them our kids are babies, learning to walk and talk. Then they are kids who are singing and telling stories. Playing soccer and baseball. Dancing in recitals. All of a sudden they are teenagers. There are birthdays, holidays, vacations. Family and friends. Some things I remember so clearly, and others I would swear I wasn’t there except for I can hear my voice behind the camera.
I can go back in time – Don is young and healthy. He’s cracking jokes. Playing basketball. Carving the turkey. Coaching Andrew’s baseball team. Holding the back of Molly’s bike seat as she learns to ride. He’s even dressed up like a bellhop for Carrie’s hotel birthday party. He’s so involved in every part of life. Such a good dad.
For now I’ve decided that looking back feels right. I’ve laughed and cried as I’ve watched my family grow up before my eyes on my computer screen. I’ve sent little clips of the videos from my phone to my kids and we’ve laughed together.
I’m on a journey no one would choose. I have no idea what the destination is, and no clue how to get there. There is no map this time. Every day is a winding road.
But I can see that there was, and is, much to be grateful for. Sometimes on the road the rearview mirror gives you the best perspective.