I like a good surprise now and then. You know, like a big birthday celebration or another kind of celebration. Good surprises are generally welcome. Otherwise, I’m not a big fan of surprises. I don’t like to be caught by surprise with something that’s not so good. The problem is, that’s generally the way that life works. At least it has for me, and that’s just what happened yesterday.
It was the last day of school for my oldest as he finished his kindergarten year. It kind of snuck up on me though. It’s not that I didn’t know that it was coming, it’s just that I did not expect the kind of emotion that accompanied it.
The thing about grief is that there are some elements of it that are predictable and others that aren’t. The predictable ones are the days that you would have normally spent with those you’ve lost. They’re the typical ones like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, and other significant days. You sort of gear yourself up for those days, expecting a flood of emotion to come on so that you’re not really surprised when it does. It’s the unexpected emotion that hits you harder though, simply because it’s unexpected.
I had two meetings back to back yesterday morning starting very early. So, I wasn’t able to be at the bus stop in the morning. I made every effort to be there in the afternoon when my son got dropped off. Having struggled with emotion all day long, it wasn’t a big surprise that I got choked up as the bus approached our street and then when he subsequently got off of the bus. My kindergartner was now a rising first grader, and his grandma and grandpa would have been proud.
My mom worked in the school system where she lived for over 25 years. Although she never got a college degree, she became a teacher’s aide and loved what she did. Always one to have strong opinions, she particularly took to my oldest son. He was her first grandchild and she always thought that he was brilliant. Turns out, she was mostly right. I think he reminded her of me as well, and we always had a special bond.
Every milestone along the way this year was accompanied by a little sadness as I thought of how proud his grandmother would have been of him. Today, there was not only the grief of missing my mom but I also was missing my dad. Father’s Day is approaching and that simply exacerbated the situation.
The thing that I have realized through all of my grief is that we live in a society that doesn’t give us the luxury to grieve as we should. We spend a day or two with family or friends celebrating and remembering, and then everyone else goes back to their normal life, but there’s a new normal for those who have lost. Things are not the same anymore. As much as we would like to compartmentalize grief into a nice little box, it rarely works that way. It’s messy. It leaks and spills all over the place. It comes unexpectedly and hangs around longer than you would want, like a relative with no filters who doesn’t know when he’s overstayed his welcome.
I’m glad that I can admit all of this. It certainly helps to understand why I act the way that I do. It also helps to let others know so that when I bite their heads off for no reason, at least they’ll have an idea that there was something deeper that caused it and that it wasn’t personal.
This weekend will be hard. I will wait with expectation and some amount of dread for the onslaught of emotion that will accompany Father’s Day. As it hits, I won’t be surprised, but I also won’t rush through it. We often move ourselves through conflict much faster than we should just because of the awkwardness of dealing with it. I’ll do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.
I miss my mom and dad. I’m not sure that feeling ever goes away, you just learn to expect it, anticipate it as best you can, and then deal with it when it gets there. If I really stop to think about it, I guess even surprises like this aren’t that bad. While they’re not the ones that I would choose, the simple fact that they hit me means that I’m alive and that’s a gift that I can’t keep to myself but need to share with others.