“You must know that you can swim through every tide and change of time,” so says my tea bag message for the day.
I have spent some time this weekend with my youngest son, watching home videos from his first year on this earth. It is amazing that in the last 14 years he has grown into the 5’10” young man that still tries to curl up next to me on the couch. I say, no less than four times in this particular video, that I am tired. It makes me sad when I watch the video, to hear the fatigue and flatness in my voice. But then I remind myself that my father had died not even a month before the video was made. 10 days before Christmas 1998. That time is such a blur for me.
I think we all carried on as best we could, but I can recall the feeling I got when I went out into the world, around other people. Surreal. I did not want to chat about the weather, the holidays, the price of fuel. I wanted to say, “My father just died. I am sad.” I remember wishing I could wear a black armband, something so that people would know when they saw me. Know that I was sad. Not just tired.
Did I swim through that tide and change of time? No. I can’t even say that I managed a dog paddle or a float. My sadness was so great that even a swim noodle may not have kept my head out of the water. In this case, when I could not swim, I had friends and family to forge a raft, a lifeboat, to carry me across. Cards, letters, food, warm socks, journals and books, surprising gifts of comfort made up my lifeboat. Some solace came in the fact that I was not alone. It was not my husband and kids with me, but my siblings. Living in three different states, yet all in the same boat. I did a lot of writing. In one of my poems I say:
I am antisocial. Who can really understand?
And those that are there,
In our rocking boat together,
We can only talk about it in halted words.
Our combined grief would be too great.
Thirteen years later there are still things that cause my eyes to well up unexpectedly as a memory is triggered. I try not to stay in a sad place long. My dad was the funniest person I have ever known. That man had so much silly and so much laughter. I’ve always been more of a moody soul, with a hint of melancholy. It is delightful when my silly comes out, it reminds me of my dad. Surprisingly, there are moments of laughter in the video. When we bundle up Hunter in his Christmas snowsuit and take him outside because it has ‘warmed up’ to –4 degrees! He lays in the sled, unable to move even an arm. Big brother Andrew pulls the sled around and round, coming perilously close to some steep and icy hills, but holding on tight to the rope. The little powder blue bundle just lays there and stares up into the bright sky and camera with curious eyes. Indoors he was in constant motion, never wanting to slow down for long. It makes us laugh to see him trapped in his snowsuit, content and trusting. Little blue eyes full of thoughts we cannot know, staring up at us.As the years have gone by, I have had more than one friend or family member go through the loss of a loved one. I know the need to be wrapped up in kind words, thoughts, warm socks or a cozy snowsuit. The gratitude that is felt when someone gives you a lifeboat. The time for contemplation when someone else steers the sled. The relief that comes when you can just be still. We don’t have to swim through every tide. It is okay to be carried through.