Sometimes, I’m fine. I mean, I’m really fine. I go along, doing the things I do, writing books and raising boys, and I’m fine. And then one night, I go to sleep and Robb is there to meet me for coffee, and it's my very undoing all over again.
We haven’t visited in my dreams in such a long time. He looked so good, so healthy, so him. It was all present day, I am who I am now, and he is who he was, is, would be if he were here.
He was trying to talk me into moving to Texas. And I kept saying, “But I live in Denver, honey. Remember? This was where we wanted to be. I’m in Colorado. If I move to Texas, then I won’t be here.” Profound, I know. He kept talking about the church, how great the church is. It’s so global, he told me. I realized that he wasn’t trying to talk me into Texas, but he was telling me about this place where he is, how great it will be when we are together.
I woke up feeling like I had been with him, which is the very nature of dreams, the suspension of reality while the untrue becomes truth for just a little while. He feels so close right now, just out of my reach. And everything feels raw and tender all over again. I feel like I am one large, deep, dark purple, tender bruise.
I listened to a segment on NPR about a man who was diagnosed with this rare bone cancer, and all he could think about were his little girls. All they would miss without him, all he would miss by leaving too soon. So he put together what he called a Council of Dads to love his girls in his absence. It was all lovely and moving, but then the story ended and they rolled the audible credits with an update: the guy lived, he is cancer free, and his family is healthy and whole.
And suddenly, I was furious.
I flipped off the radio, cursing expletives and vaguely thankful my kids weren’t in the car. I was so mad at the guy who got to live, who gets to raise his little girls. I was mad that there’s a council of men standing at the ready. I was mad for the drama of it all, that I had followed this tragic story expecting to find one I could identify with. I felt manipulated, and I truly hate, hate, being manipulated. But mostly I was just mad that the story I live is just how it goes.
My guys are getting older. We have entered a new stage, a golden in-between place where they are not little children but not yet young men, where they want to do things, learn skills, and take adventures that are above my pay grade.
A boy needs a dad. These boys need theirs.
The thing about childhood loss is that you just keep losing and losing and losing what you’ve lost. Just when you find your stride, you discover another way you need the person you don’t have. To my heart’s endless breaking, it’s becoming harder, so very much harder, to be both mom and dad to them.
It doesn’t go away. You just learn to live inside it.