When my son graduated from kindegarten, my husband and I gave him a copy of Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go! with a note from us written on the inside front cover. We moved a year later, and my daughter attended kindegarten at a school didn't have kindegarten graduation, so she received her copy when she graduated from high school. For their graduations almost two weeks ago, I added a 3rd (in the case of my son's) and 2nd (in my daughter's) note on the inside of the cover. As I considered what to write, I gave quite a bit of thought to the places both of them have already been and to all the possibilities that await them.
Similarly, as I wrote in my journal last night, I couldn't help but think about where I've been the past 10 days; some of those "places" were a bit challenging, while others were absolutely wonderful.
Of course, missing my daughter's graduation was difficult, and my son's graduation was bittersweet. I celebrated another birthday and marked another Memorial Day; special occasions and holidays are strong reminders that one very important person is missing. I also said good-bye to my son and watched him drive away to his new home in Fort Worth. Silly perhaps, but his being a 10 1/2-hour drive away -- too far for an occasional weekend together (especially with his residency schedule) -- for the first time in his life has hit me a bit. On top of that, my daughter is moving out this weekend; it hasn't escaped me that I will be, for all intents and purposes, completely alone when I'm at home, and that will be a huge change for me.
The past 10 days brought physical challenges as well. Between the Monday and Thursday after graduations, I helped load all of my son's possessions into a u-haul, drove 9 hours to Forth Worth, helped unload the uhaul (carrying every piece of furniture and almost all of the boxes up a flight of stairs to his new apartment) and unpack & arrange things, and in one day drove 9 hours back to Kansas City and then on to the St. Louis area where I live. On the drive home, I did some quick math and determined that in 8 days I was in a car at least 30 hours! I love road trips, but I think I'm ready to stay home for awhile.
These same 10 days were also, in many ways, wonderful. I was humbled by my daughter's maturity and grace about my missing her graduation, and I was so very touched as family and friends loved and supported her with their presence. I watched with unspeakable joy as my son was presented as a doctor for the first time and draped with the hood that signifies the completion of 21 years of hard work and dedication. It was absolutely wonderful to have 10 days with my son and, except for 4 days, my daughter -- time to chat and laugh and simply be together as a family. We haven't had that much time together in 4 years! This past Saturday, my son and daughter took me out for a "birthday lunch". I was completely shocked to find my sister and brother-in-law, nephews and their wives and children, and some dear friends there as well. Somehow, my son and daughter planned and executed a surprise birthday party for me without my suspecting anything at all!
Both my son and daughter left yesterday (my son to return to Fort Worth, my daughter to spend a few days with my father- and mother-in-law). Originally, I had planned a full schedule, hoping to stay busy and have no time to brood, but at the last minute I decided to take a few days off before returning to my normal routine and to simply relax and rejuvenate. I did just that. I spent yesterday in my pajamas, reading a few cozy mysteries and eating junk food, and stopping to putter a bit as the mood struck me. When I felt a bit blue, I journalled about how I was feeling or watched a rerun of "The Big Bang Theory". Last night I watched an NBA playoff game, and I fell asleep on the couch as the announcers were giving their post-game recap. I was a bit more productive today; I got my teeth cleaned, ran a few errands, and caught up on some paperwork.
I'm glad I was able to help my son move and that I'll be able to help my daughter do the same thing this Friday and Saturday. I'm glad, too, that instead of using busyness to ignore my feelings, I took a few days to slow down and to acknowledge and then work through them.
Everyone gets the blues now and then; those of us who have lost a spouse (or child) surely get them more often. There are healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with those less-pleasant emotions, and I firmly believe that what is "healthy" for one person may not be so for another. What helps you handle the more trying times? Is it surrounding yourself with friends or loved ones, or do you need alone when you're feeling down? What activities help you get over the rough patches? I'd love to hear from you; if you don't want to share publicly through a comment here, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.