NOTE: This entry was written on separate dates divided by illness and burnt broccoli which could likely account for the lack of cohesiveness throughout. I’m publishing it anyway:-)
1/18/2017: Well, it happened. For the first time since Jake died, I got sick! I haven’t been sick in about five years. I believe because I drink a ton of water regularly and started taking EmergenC at the very first cough, I would feel better in short order. I think I had truly convinced myself that I would never get sick again…like, ever. My 5-year-old happened to test positive for the flu at the same time. Thankfully, my parents were able to take flu boy for a few days which not only enabled me to go to work, but also kept him away from the other kids. This morning I realized that while my parents should be enjoying their retirement and their grandchildren, they have inadvertently become the kids’ “second parent”. I appreciate them more than I can even say. For the past couple of years, I’ve been adamant that these are MY kids and I will make the decisions and nobody else has a say. But can I even believe that? When my parents have shouldered so much of the responsibility? I don’t know. I’m actually asking.
In the thick of it, when all 4 are going crazy and pictures are falling off the walls because they are like a herd of hippos stomping through my house, and my 5-year-old (who I believe has Oppositional-Defiant Disorder…but I’m also really hoping that it’s a passing phase) is refusing to wear clothes so I have to sit outside his bedroom door holding it shut until he puts some clothes on and he’s screaming and crying and yelling really awful things at me…yes..I am the only one there. Some form of that scenario takes place on a regular basis. But just every once in a while I find myself wishing that I had someone here to hold me and tell me that everything is going to be alright.
In case anyone was wondering…YES..it is definitely possible to burn steamed broccoli. Also, YES..it is possible to make this mistake more than once. So, I completely lost my train of thought.
Some weird coincidences have been happening lately. I went to a New Years Eve party and didn’t know many people. I was chatting with the woman hosting the party and as we were talking, we realized that she had gone to high school with Jake. She knew Jake and all of his friends. She pulled out her yearbook. I looked at his yearbook picture and couldn’t tear myself away from it. Here was this..kid. In high school, on the football team, tons of friends..with a big smile on his face and that kid had no clue of his fate. This thinking led me down the rabbit hole of “what if he had never met me? Would he still be alive?” and then that illogical desperation of wishful thinking that we could turn back time to when that picture was taken and alter the course of…everything.
The following weekend I was conversing with a teacher from my kids’ school and it turned out that he went to the same college as Jake AND was there at the same time.
The weekend after that I went trail running with a group of people. I knew some, but not everybody. (They were very fast…I had a hard time keeping up with their pace). I’d like to say I was having a conversation, but really I was just listening to someone talk to me because no way could I talk! She brought up the Innocence Project (not many people know about it, but it was one of Jake’s “things”. He strongly supported that organization. I’ve never heard anybody talk about it before) at the exact moment that we came to “the” rock. I’ve posted about the rock in a previous blog. Before and after.
I had to separate from the group and go up there to remember. It was/is ridiculously hard for me to look at this same rock—-empty. The rock is still present. Jake is not. I bawled. I haven’t cried like that in a long time. Jake had been there, at that rock, with his kids and I, once again–having no idea what was in store for him. Someday I will find better words to explain this really indescribable feeling.
When I finally re-joined the pack, my dear friend told me she had had a dream about Jake. She never really knew Jake-I barely knew her before Jake died. We became close friends in the AFTER. She told me how she dreamt that she was at some kind of wedding or big event and Jake walked in, wearing a suit and sat down at a table with a big smile on his face.
Could it be possible? I want to believe that in these different experiences, Jake is there with me. However, being the data-driven, scientific evidence, reproducible results girl that I am, always returns to “These are merely coincidences that you are assigning meaning to”. But lately I have been wondering-what if? What if I had some faith..in something? Is it possible to “give faith a chance” and see how it works out for me? Just believe….without proof. I don’t know. Again-I’m actually asking.
CONTINUED 1/22/2017: So, I started this post earlier in the week while I was in denial. I had the flu. I didn’t admit it to myself until 3-4 days in. Haha! I started taking Tamiflu and do believe it shortened the length and severity of the virus. But man alive, that medicine is disgusting. No wonder my kids balk about taking it. At least I have experience with doing shots (which helped! Positive side of doing shots a long, long time ago…).
My two oldest (ages 9 and 12) boys see a counselor. During a recent session, my oldest was saying a lot about treasuring the people we love and how much he treasures his family and friends. He used those words. Soon afterwards, I overheard my 12-year-old saying mean things to his brother. I reminded him about what he said to the counselor. He looked at me and said “Well, of course I still treasure him. I love him. He’s my brother. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t annoy me!” I didn’t respond. I was in awe that my 12-year-old boy was able to articulate in such simple terms, such a profound thought. Because, I’ve been throwing this idea around in my head for some time.
I know sometimes when I’m with my girlfriends, they are worried about complaining about their husbands around me. They might be thinking “At least I still have my husband” or anything along those lines. One friend was surprised that I could empathize with her frustrations. Here is a true fact-being dead, does not make you perfect. I have beaten myself up to the point where my bruises on the inside will never go away-because I keep on beating myself up over not doing ‘whatever’ enough when Jake was alive. But when you take two human beings and put them together to interact, there are bound to be ideas, hopefully many, that are diverse and even conflicting between those two people. I grew up believing that princes saved princesses and that “they lived happily ever after”. Nobody ever told me that could never happen. I know I’m not the only one. When we registered for our wedding, I registered for more glassware/barware than the dive bar in town even owns. We had never been big on entertaining before we got married. But I had this idea in my head that “happily ever after” meant hosting fiestas with a variety of cocktails in their appropriate glassware, and having dinner parties where I would definitely need twelve water goblets. This was my mindset when I was planning to be married. It didn’t really occur to me that he was not perfect. I am not perfect. Our relationship wasn’t perfect. We loved each other and treasured each other, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t irritate, anger, and have moments of genuine “non-appreciation” for each other. So, yes, I can empathize with relationship struggles and challenges. (I haven’t found the compassion within myself to feel very sorry for those people whose lives’ biggest problems include having non-matching embroidery on their Christmas stockings because Pottery Barn discontinued that font, however. I can’t shed tears with you over that one. Working on it though.)
I know that these things are true:
- human beings are not perfect,
- human beings are very complicated,
- relationships between human beings are complicated,
- human beings can love someone and not really like that same person at times.
Here is what I am trying to tell myself is true:
- all of the above are okay.
I do wish that as a society we were all more open about this. Perfection is an idea. It cannot be proven. This is a fact. I absolutely can prove that I am human. But I cannot prove perfection, because this is an abstract concept and everybody’s ideas about this concept are different. Every person on this planet has their own idea of perfection. Most of us strive to achieve it. But why? And more importantly-why the hell do we try to put on this face of perfection for the world? It’s insanity!
I’ve never really wondered “what is my purpose in life?” Of course, because I already knew. My “purpose” was to grow up, be an upstanding citizen with a good job, live happily ever after with my husband and kids, and during retirement sit on a porch swing with my husband, sip iced tea and hold hands while watching the sunset. Obviously, that was not a “purpose”. That was my fairy tale ending. I’ve started thinking about it though. I’ve decided for myself (not for everybody else), that I am always going to have multiple “purposes”. In the BEFORE, it was about raising my kids to be happy and kind people. In the AFTER, it’s about doing my best to raise my kids to hopefully be happy and kind people while managing their feelings and beings about the overlooming fact that they lost a parent tragically, and suddenly, and way too young. It’s about doing my imperfect best when my heart is broken because my 5-year-old doesn’t recognize his daddy in the pictures all over the house. It’s about doing my imperfect best when my 6-year-old says she is going to ask Santa to bring daddy back to life because Santa is magic and he can do anything. It’s about doing my imperfect best when my 9-year-old starts crying because he is “the only kid in class” who doesn’t have a dad. It’s about doing my imperfect best when my 12-year-old takes on the un-asked-for burden of being the “man” of the house before he even hits puberty. All of this while trying to raise my kids to hopefully be happy and kind people (even when I’m down and out with the stupid flu). A lot of days, my imperfect best, is not even very good. But, I need to be okay with that. Not just okay with the suit I wear for the world, but really okay with that for me. The real, raw, selfish, generous, loving, hating, compassionate, not-so-compassionate, thoughtful, thoughtless, imperfect Kristen that only I know about. I need to be okay with her.
When we lose somebody suddenly, some of the first words out of anybody’s mouth are “treasure every moment with your loved ones because you never know….”. This is a fantastic sentiment. But because we are imperfect and complicated human beings that interact with other imperfect and complicated human beings, there are going to be times when we don’t necessarily show our appreciation to our loved ones. We feel angry. We feel annoyed. We are not very nice. But we still treasure. There are no similes I can come up with for comparison. This just is. We can only try our imperfect best and aim to keep our inner bruising at a minimum.
Jake always encouraged me to write. It turns out, Jake had a story. He still does. But he’s not here to tell it. I will tell Jake’s story. I will tell it the way he told it to me, the way he didn’t tell it to me, and the way I found out about it going through his belongings after he died. Jake was my beautifully imperfect best friend and love. And I have his perfectly tragic story to tell.