I was walking home from the hairdresser’s, my newly lightened and shortened locks swinging in the sun, when the phone rang. Along with my hair, I felt lightened, the product of longer days and pleasant weather I guess, along with the wrapping up of a pretty amazing first year here. When I saw the name of The Kid’s therapist on my screen, though, I felt a pause in my mood. And as he delivered the news that he would be taking another job next year, my peaceful easy feeling dried up into ashes, the pendulum swinging wildly in the opposite direction from where it had been moments earlier.
He explained the reasoning, which was all sound and rational, and we spoke about it for a few minutes as I walked into the house we would be moving out of in a week’s time. When we hung up, I set the phone down and tried to catch my breath. Then I started sobbing.
It’s been awhile since grief visited us here.
The past few months–ever since our initial adjustment, my near-breakdown, and a fine-tuning of my meds–have, looking back, been somewhat of a dream. Daily drives by the beach, purple blooms on the sidewalk, glowing reports from both boys’ schools, growing friendships marked by bottles of wine shared and stories told. We’ve marked milestones and celebrated holidays, touted triumphs and made our way through this Sydney life as a unit of four growing closer all the time. It has been gift after gift. Sometime, the other shoe had to drop, right? Sometime, it all had to fall apart?
This is what the phone call did to me; this is how I operate: in the face of a bump in the road, I shake my head, say “I knew it,” and begin to despair.
And I used to stay there, hopeless and afraid, until denial floated along and I would grab it, or distraction came by and I’d cling to it. The urge to just dull my aching via Netflix was strong; I’ve never wanted to glaze my eyes with Facebook updates more. Instead, I cried. Hard. For awhile. Alone.
Fun, right? The End. Except…not.
I’m convinced that of all of our emotions (and I know everything there is to know about them, having watched Inside Out countless times with my kids), one of the truest is grief. It gets twisted into so many others–anger, irritation, fear–but underneath so many feelings is the grief that has a rightful place in our hearts, reflective as it is of the chasm between how things should be and how they are. In my draw-up, TK’s shadow therapist would remain with him until the end of high school, maybe on into adulthood (because that’s not weird), never requiring of me a hard conversation with my son, or a goodbye that breaks our hearts. Then again, in my draw-up, Australia was never on the table. I never would have met the two friends I told first: one who texted back that she’d be coming over that afternoon, and the other who booked me on her couch the next evening.
But in that intervening period, before wine and commiseration, even before I called The Husband in breathless tears, I just cried. I cried as prayer, a “WHY?!” that will never end this side of eternity, a “HELP!” that won’t either. I cried for the changing of a relationship that has meant so much to TK–to us all–this year. I cried for the loss of a constant for him, and us. I cried for all the goodbyes that should never have to happen, for all the sad that has yet to become untrue. I cried because I was sad, and I let myself be, and as I did, I felt less alone. I felt the peace–not of a good haircut and a sunny day, but the real, raw, abiding peace beyond myself–descend upon me, the knowing that the same grace that brought us here and gave us the gift of one good thing will not suddenly stop showing up. I cried, and I’m still crying, though less, yet always, because this side of eternity there will be grief and I’ll be damned if I numb myself to it.
Turns out we’re going to have to do real life in Australia too. Dammit. I wish someone would have warned me.
And as the Christmas season kicks in, salt rides on the hot air and I’m conflicted. It doesn’t feel like Christmas here, without icy breezes and crunching leaves. Yet Advent happens no matter how I feel.
I sat the other night on the deck that will soon be replaced by another and cried some more. I looked for Christmas and felt only heat, tasted salt. The wind blew mightily, another weather pattern here that does not fit into my Yuletide profile, and above me, a bird clung to the branch of the tree outside our window: the tree we love, that TK said looks like an alligator. I wondered if he was afraid, the wind seeming to push against him, to do battle against the wings he was given that should take him where he needs to go. He gave a few false starts and I began to think he might just stay there, in one place, forever. Then the wind blew a last time and he let go, riding on it or pushed by it, carried by it exactly to where he was meant to be.