Sunday, August 30, 2015

Five Years

When I close my eyes at night, I can imagine just about anything. 

I can picture my stepson Matthew walking in the front door.  I can almost hear his keys jingling at the lock, followed by the squish of sneakers going up the steps to his room, which he shared with Michael. 

"Come in and say 'HI!' before you go upstairs," David would call out to him from the kitchen.    

"Come in and say goodnight," David would ask of him before he hit the sack, when he knew Matthew would be out late.      

Reliving this dialogue in my head can be very convincing that it's happening in real time.

If only it were.

Yesterday marked five years since Matthew passed away.
One of our little neighbors, Johnny,  just turned 5.  He rides a bike on his own and is a big bad first grader.  His whole life has taken place in the time frame that Matthew' s been gone.  

This is a most shocking and sobering measurement of how long it's been. 

While it's true that the passing of time helps the healing process, it can't eliminate voids of this nature. 

However, these days while tears are less constant and more sporadic than they were for the first year or two,  it's unnerving how the triggers can come from anywhere and at anytime.   

Take going out to dinner.  The waiter comes to our table and says, "Welcome to Mexican Food Factory, my name is Matthew and I'll be taking care of you."

Immediately, I ask myself, Couldn't we have a waiter with a different name?  Maybe I should check that before we sit down next time.  

Seemingly harmless conversation with friendly people can turn from entertaining to dreadful in a matter of seconds. 

A common topic - at a Bed & Breakfast, during breakfast  when unfamiliar couples sit together - usually starts with establishing everyone's home states and then almost always moves to the children..."Do you guys have kids?  How many? "   

I've become more assertive with taking control of the conversation from the getgo, which plays an important role in keeping the exchange light.  

I also dig into my meal at a fairly rapid pace so that we can make a quick getaway before it's our turn to answer potentially difficult questions.

But when I realize that the predictable questions are unavoidable, my heart goes out to the person or couple asking so innocently about our Brady Bunch configuration, knowing the potential for darkness is looming in the information I'd be about to pass on.

There are times I have to admit that I've wanted to say that we have 4 kids, not 5, but I'd be disappointed in myself to leave Matthew out of the equation just because it's easier for me.

It's not because I don't have great memories of and stories about Matthew and a desire to share them, but the road to them is too painful.

Maybe one day this part will become easier, but in my heart I know that may never happen.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stay or Go?

David and I just got back from our annual 8-day vacation in Maine. 
Halfway through Day 1, already under the familiar New England coastal town spell, I was asking myself the same 2 questions that I ruminate about each year:  1 - Why wasn't I born here?  and 2 - Do I have to leave?   

Regarding the first question...seriously...why couldn't my parents have decided to set up shop in a lovely town right on the water - say in Camden or Boothbay Harbor - instead of the fifth largest city in the USA?      

Philadelphia is indeed rich in culture, history and the arts - and much more - but wandering around town doesn't bring about the serenity I experience feasting my eyes upon infinite hues of blues and greens that sparkle in the big, beautiful and boundless sea.

The reality is that my parents, who traveled around as union organizers in the 1950s, could've made great changes all over the country. It's not far-fetched to say that they could've worked their progressive magic for the thousands of lobstermen (for example) all over Maine who have struggled for decades to protect their livelihood and therefore their families, threatened by a variety of issues including market pricing, regulatory restrictions, the legislative process and so on.

So if my folks had been drawn to a life on the coast, a natural step for me would've been to become a sailor, a lobster fisherman, run a Bed & Breakfast on the waterfront, or maybe I'd express myself as an artist.  I like to think that I'd be known for my imagined series called "Reflections," which would highlight the images of people and trees and clouds and buildings and lights as they dance upon the surface of the water.       

And had I grown up there, perhaps I'd enjoy vacations completely opposite of that, like annual trips to Philly, though I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't be touring in the heat of the summer.  It's possible I'd be so sad to depart from the City of Brotherly Love as that week came to an end that I'd begin to ponder a move from Boothbay in the hopes of satisfying my longing to live in a vibrant, colorful, urban environment instead.  

Now...with regard to my second question above:  Do I have to leave (Maine)? 

Well I'm home, so yes, I knew I had to go, this time.    

But looking ahead, here's what I don't know, on the subject of wanting to stay, even as I go:  Is the allure of coastal living so strong because it contrasts greatly to my past and current lifestyle, or would I truly be happy and content through winter, spring, summer and fall?      

David says their winters are too long, cold and snowy, and we'd be stuck inside for what could be almost half of the year.  He knows first-hand how crazy I get when I'm cooped up (which probably scares him to death).
Joking aside, I respond by saying I want to experience autumn with its golden, amber and scarlet foliage and I want to breathe in the crisp, still air as I watch the winter snow blanket the ocean.    

Maybe next year...