April, May, June. They feel big. Full of big milestones. Full of firsts. Full of anniversaries of lasts. And then I start year two. Year two which everyone says is worse than year one. Which I get. I get it – people expect you to be ok now. You’ve already experienced the first one of those without him, so… you’re ok now, right? Or, you’ve moved on. Even when you see us moving forward, my friends, we do not “move on” from this kind of loss. I will carry this loss with me… I will carry Tim with me. Always.
April came crashing in with Easter. Easter was April 1st this year. I planned big Easter bunny plans. No family was going to be in town, so I made other plans and had a big, busy, exhausting weekend. Which was wonderful. And then I had a moment when I took out the trash and I saw cardinals in the trees and I burst into tears. These are just moments I have. And Easter night was… interesting. A story for a later post. But April came in with a bang.
April 4th would have been Tim’s 38th birthday. I took the day off. I knew I’d need it. I made an appointment at a friend of A’s mother’s tattoo shop. I’d been considering this tattoo a while and knew I wanted it, and felt his birthday was the right day for it. The day he should have turned 38. But he did not. Because he will forever be 37 years old. I also bought orange star balloons and a Happy Birthday balloon at the dollar store. And I made a cake. With orange frosting. I planned to make red velvet but both girls asked me not to. I drove out to Veramar to pick up my wine and sit on the bench I bought him there. I put candles on the cake and sang with the kids, and we wrote on the balloons, and went outside and let them go. During the cake, R said, “I wish Daddy could come back.” I do too, my love. I do too. As the balloons drifted out of sight A shouted “I love you, daddy!!” Handling their grief and my own is often overwhelming.
The tattoo I got is his signature from my last Valentine’s Day card in 2017.
A friend asked me on April 5th if I’d get any more tattoos. He didn’t know this was my second. I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. When I got the first, I thought it could be my only. Maybe. But I’d be open. Tim wanted to get one involving the kids. But he never formulated exactly what he wanted. This one came to me easily. I asked one colleague what he thought about its relative visibility regarding professionalism, really just out of curiosity. Nothing was going to change my mind. He told me his wife advised against it for professional reasons. I get it. I would have done the same, a year ago. But it was too obvious to me that this was something I had to do. I didn’t want it on my wrist where it was very easily visible… but this seemed the right place.
All the decisions I’ve made lately are challenging. But I do my best to always do what seems like the right place… or what simply feels right. I’ve gone with my gut most lately.
On Thursday night, we celebrated our dog’s birthday. His adoption day really. 10 years since when Tim and I took him home. Tim loved that dog so much. He was really our first baby. When I started traveling for work a lot in 2008-09, Tim started letting him sleep in our bed and getting on the couch! In 2015, my in-laws took him for the summer while we prepped and sold our condo, bought and moved into our current home… Tim told me he thought maybe we should leave him in New York… because it would be so hard on all of us when he dies! He was literally afraid of the grief we would all experience when our dog inevitably dies. I can’t believe our dog outlived him. That fact was not lost on me as we celebrated the dog’s “birthday” on Thursday. I felt the loss.
This past weekend, I took off Friday. I took my son to get ear tubes. I was constantly reminded that Tim would have been there for that. Forms and people asked me where Tim was… who else was coming… there was a little boy (older than D) who got out of surgery just after he did who had something done on his eyes who was really hysterical. His dad was called back and I swear they asked him a half-dozen times about Mom. I was close to saying “He said she’s not here!!!” English wasn’t this family’s first language, and I know there could have been a million reasons this poor child’s mother was not there, but my heart went out to this boy and his father in such a big way. D was a trooper, and yet, doing this without Tim felt big. I felt the loss. I then went to R’s classroom to celebrate her 5th birthday. Something we had done together last year. I then took R to Kindergarten Orientation… which I attended 2 years ago with Tim, on a day where I had an ultrasound (that he also went to with me) in the morning. I felt the loss… that he wasn’t there… for R and for me. I also had a 5th birthday extravaganza at my house on Saturday… and bought her a big gift, that nearly wasn’t ready on time… and pretty much emotionally shut down at that point. It all just became too much and my brain shut down. My sister and my sister-in-law and my two college friends who flew in for the event took over, and simply did. And everything got done. And I think R had fun. All the kids had fun. That night, my father-in-law took A to the father-daughter dance with her girl scout troop. It was lovely. Beautiful. And yet what Tim wouldn’t have given to go to that with his girl? And I felt the loss.
I guess the point is that it’s impossible not to feel the loss in the big milestones. Sometimes its crippling. Sometimes less so. But its unavoidable. All I can do is let myself feel it. Feel the loss. And try to feel less of the guilt.
“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them” – Leo Tolstoy