Last week was strange.
I would be lying down or grading papers, I'd be walking in the door from work or pouring cereal or filtering the DVR when I would find myself drawn to that room. Well...to your room, and suddenly, I'd be standing there on the stained hardwood.
And I’d stay there for awhile, marvel at the clutter that has accumulated in your absence. In this room that has become a safe haven for your brother’s artwork, paper caterpillars and alphabet worksheets filling the drawers of that dresser. Your dresser. A few forgotten Christmas presents lining the baseboards, and in the space where your crib would be, five pair of pointed flats from no fewer shopping trips, begrudgingly enjoyed by a mother in her efforts to rise above.
After you died, your father painted that room a beautiful “greige”. He knows I love the color. He knows it’s what I would have insisted happen before your arrival; however your arrival brought its own shade of neutrality to my perspective. I didn’t care about anything for the longest time, least of all the color of an empty room.
Looking back, it was an effort. It was one way he had tried to get me to care. About something. About anything, again. It was his way of telling me that we'd be back. It was what he had whispered to me as we pulled away from the hospital, after holding you for the last time.
I can’t remember when it began, when I started to care again. Can’t place the first time I felt the fear return while passing an eighteen wheeler on the highway. I don't recall when the apathy faded, when I began to feel personally offended once more, while grading Punnett Square practice worksheets. Cannot pinpoint the day I returned to the grocery store, joined the conversation about dinner preferences and gas prices. I don't remember when I decided to call that person back. The first moment I actually wanted to talk.
But I know it has returned. The caring, in some capacity at least, and for that I am grateful.
Last week was confusing. Your anniversary? Your day of celebration? What?
Do we “celebrate” the actual calendar date when you passed? The Saturday before? Should it be the day you were born, one day after you died? Do I call it your birthday? Do I order a cake?
It’s the strangest feeling, the “lead-up”. The anticipation builds, and each day we got closer I would envision myself at that exact moment the year before. What was I doing? What was I thinking about? People say it’s like reliving everything that happened, but I would disagree. I felt like an observer, monitoring her every move as she indulged in chocolate covered strawberries and cherry sprite. She lectures on DNA structure, attends the Wednesday meeting after school. She pays for Day Care, attends her baby shower, drives home encased in pink tissue paper.
It was like I was walking alongside myself, just watching, waiting for the reveal. Watching that part of me alive for the last time. And all the while I am here, silently waiting, reaching for her hand.
We decided to meet at your tree on the 23rd. We wrote messages on blue index cards and we tied them to balloons, watched them rise above our grieving heads. I felt a sense of pride then, having survived the year. Standing tall in the frozen grass, I felt her leave me. That girl I used to be gone once and for all, with the wind and a heavy sigh.
It was bitterly cold, but there was more sunshine than I expected.
Slowly, I’m getting used to that.