A Moment of Sanity

Today Daniel and I experienced it… a moment of sanity – a glimpse of the past and a window into the distant future. It happened innocently enough. Daniel called late afternoon to say he would be late coming home, not to worry especially since he was on his bicycle today. “How late?” I pressed him. Unable to answer me with a definite time, I asked him if I should go ahead and feed the kids. “Yes,” he said, “might as well.”

I was elated. This worked very well with my supper plan. The kids had already asked me what was for supper; and upon telling them, I was greeted with a series of protests about not wanting chili but wanting yogurt and carrots instead, to which I had given our standard answer “If you don’t want to eat chili, that’s fine, but there will be no dessert or snacks.” Daniel and I are sticklers about the kids eating the same thing we eat at meals, and of course this means meal times aren’t always the most relaxing times for Daniel and myself, although it has definitely gotten better over the years! But to be blatantly honest, whenever Daniel isn’t home for supper, I feel I have some “creative” license concerning the entree – usually I pick something that won’t incur additional conflicts. So chili was dismissed from the kids’ menu, and yogurt with cooked carrots mixed in became the main dish. (Yes, cooked carrots and yogurt mixed… together. Alice mixed her carrots into her yogurt once and has done it ever since with Ian following suit. I choose not to comment and try not to wrinkle my nose at her culinary masterpiece.)

I also must admit that usually when Daniel calls to say he’ll be late, I ask if I should feed the kids not only for their sake, but selfishly for my sake as well. I wish I could say I’m the model wife and always wait patiently to eat until Daniel gets home on the nights he’s late, which is actually very rare; but I don’t. I feel like a 4 yr old admitting this, but I’m a person of the hangry disorder (being overly hungry leads to feelings of anger and shortness of temper, sometimes unable to be logically pleased = hangry). Seriously, you see this in kids all the time – huge meltdowns right before meal times. Sad to say, this is me as well – not for every meal, generally only if a meal time is moved well beyond the anticipated time of ingestion. I’ve tried to tell myself this is all in my head – certainly a 30+ year old woman can control her emotions even though she’s a little hungry. But try as I might, I usually end up acting uncharacteristically bad toward the kids (or whomever happens to be present) then slurping some sugary drink to try to quiet my raging innards until more substantial sustenance arrives.

Tonight was different. I wasn’t overly hungry when Daniel called, and for some reason I didn’t even think about the fact that I could eat with the kids. When I told them Daddy would be late, the kids wanted to eat right away. In short order, I started dishing up yogurt and slicing the cooked-carrots-mix-ins. I stayed in the dining room while they ate, cleaning fingerprints off windows and organizing my desk, i.e., getting ready for company on Thursday evening. When Daniel arrived home – not overly late, the kids were finished, and I was still cleaning. He took a shower while I heated up dinner – leftover chili/taco meat for soft tacos. As I put dishes in the microwave, I was taken back in time to when Daniel and I lived in our apartment over 6 years ago. On hot summer evenings we would sit on our small windowed-in porch/sun room and eat our supper together – making conversation as we pleased, still feeling the heat of the day, watching the sun make its evening descent, sometimes in silence. We would watch the corn in the nearby field grow tall and brown as summer months went on and the tiger lilies bloom and then wither around the base of a tree near the porch. We were always a little sad when it was too cold to eat our supper our there together. It was like we knew times like that were precious and would become scarce.

Not a tiger lily, but one of the poppies that bloomed each summer at the apartment

As Daniel and I sat tonight and ate our meal, just the two of us, making conversation without interruptions or having to tell a child to sit correctly or to be respectful, I told him I think we’ll be eating a lot of tacos when we are old and alone because we love them so much, they’re easy to make, and we won’t have to fight the food battle with the kids. That pleased him greatly although he added that he had hope the kids would eventually like tacos too – before we were old. In the next sentence he said to me “Thanks for waiting to eat with me. I enjoyed it. Remember when we used to eat supper together on the porch at our apartment? I felt that way tonight.”

Me too…. me too.

And while I would never even remotely consider wanting my kids to behave like perfect little angels (robots) at the table, nor am I wishing away these days when my family eats together almost every night, it was exciting to sit in our own home, just the two of us, sharing our extended moment of sanity for the day. As I think about my day… small boy pulling the wood paneling off the garage door, little-big girl trimming her hair as she trimmed the daisies, the mischievous duo giving each other sand showers in the sandbox, I’m pretty sure God knew I needed both the reminder of the past – who we were, and the portal into the future – the hope that we’ll still continue on together even when the kids aren’t the entire focus. Just maybe one day in the future we’ll share our dinners outside again, just the two of us, watching the sun set each evening as the corn changes all season long.

Fading Memories

I wrote the post below in early April and decided it wasn’t the correct time to publish it. Our recent family vacation to the beach brought me back to it as I was continually struck during the week by how much my kids would have loved having Alicia on vacation with us. Missed her so much!

April 2012

Dear Alicia,

With the “anniversary” of you death quickly approaching, people have been asking me what they can do to help us through the next few weeks. (I hate the word “anniversary” in this case – anniversaries have always been happy occasions until this event.) I know that people honestly care and want to feel they can somehow ease the pain April brings with it. We’ve had offers of childcare, meals, hanging out with friends; and while I cannot tell you how much we appreciate these sentiments and how they do really make a difference just knowing that others realize we’re still missing you severely (not sure when or if that will ever end), what I’ve really wanted to say is “Can you help my children remember their aunt? She was an extraordinary woman, and my kids will never know her.”

Alicia & Alice playing Candy Land on a trip to the mountains.

Over the past year, Alice has said relatively little about your death and your absence, much to my surprise. We told her you went to stay with Jesus and that He would take care of you until we got to be with you again. She readily accepted that that was ok– that is until about 1 month ago when it seems almost everyday she talks about death and/or you in heaven. Maybe it’s because of Easter and talking about Jesus dying that has her little brain turning equations she can’t quite put together. Maybe she’s realizing more and more the finality of you being with Jesus since she’s also been concerned about others dying too. But whatever it is, I’m sure it’s a good thing she’s processing some of these feelings.

One day we were in the car with her cousin and my mom, and Alice said, “Aunt Alicia is in heaven. I can’t wait to go to heaven and see her. It will be great.” I was so thankful Mom was driving as the tears welled up in my eyes and the lump formed in my throat, and Mom replied for me that “Yes – yes, it will be great.” Also, Alice recently talked about going to your house when you babysat her and the fun she had with you and Cody. This past Sunday she drew a picture of you and Jesus in heaven and our family living in our house – more tears from mom.

Alice's picture of Alicia in heaven

It’s been “little” things like that almost nonstop that have my heart breaking again and again at the fact that she won’t ever get the chance to really know you – and with time, even most of the memories she has of you will most likely fade because she is so young… just like they have for Ian.

Because he was such a young 2 year old when you died, I had little hope of him remembering you when he was older. However, I am surprised how quickly it all seems to have faded for him. He no longer recognizes you in pictures, usually calling you “Aunt Laura,” and it’s all I can do not to sit and weep when he does it. “No!” I want to shout “That’s Aunt Alicia – don’t you remember how much she loved you?” But of course he doesn’t, and it certainly would be unfair for me to expect that of him considering his age and understanding of the past year.

Alicia with newborn Ian

I don’t know how to explain this hole in my heart for my kids. They will never really understand the loss of the relationship that should have been, and yet I feel it acutely for them. There’s no one who can replace you – that goes for anyone who knew you. I just wish that last April, somehow we could have helped  you to remember/believe that too, to the very core of your being – no one can replace you. I guess I like to believe that maybe it would have changed the outcome. And so I will take it upon myself to remind my kids as much as I can that there’s no one who can replace them. They are unique and needed, loved no matter what; just like I know you would have told them if you were still here.

Missing you and missing you for my kids,

Natalie