Another Friday the 13th. Is it truly possible that it has been a month? It seems so long ago sometimes and sometimes it seems like yesterday. Then there are brief interludes of fantasy when I dream it never happened and life is normal. My rational brain won’t allow those glorious moments to last nearly long enough.
The last Friday the 13th – the bad one. I carried her. I had carried her frail body so often over the past ten months, it seemed natural. Only this time, she didn’t wrap her arms around my neck or tell me where to go. This time, our destination wasn’t the couch or the kitchen table. On that dark evening, I carried her to the Hearse waiting in my driveway. I did it because I didn’t want anyone to see her loaded onto a stretcher inside my house. How could we ever recover from that sight?
It was the longest walk I’ve ever made.
The visitation and funeral are a blur. Pictures and video tell me they happened. I remember seeing so many friends. There were times I was almost happy except for the specter of grief that always pulled me back into its dark bosom. We spent another ten days with very little activity and a great many tissues. The void created by the passing of a relatively small child is disproportionately large.
So how are we doing?
I asked Robin that very question and was given what I thought was an incredibly simple yet insightful answer.
“Everything feels wrong, all the time.”
Wrong. Off. Askew. Like staying together in a hotel where a home used to be. Wrong like when I had to drive my truck after it had been broken into a few years ago. Wrong. Stolen from. Unsettled.
Yes, we have played games, shared laughs, and had fun, but everything always settles back into this amissness. The tears come and go. None of us try to force an end to them, we just huddle and wait them out. Nothing specific triggers them – just a Kylie-sized hole.
Sleep is a game that Robin and I play differently. She can't find it, I can't keep it. So she stays up and reads or hangs out with our night-owl teens until she gets exhausted. I fall out at my usual time. But when my eyes open at 3 or 4 am, I am awake for the day. As time has moved on, the rules of the game have relaxed for both of us. She gets to bed sooner and I rise later. Still not normal, but better.
We have thought about getting away for a weekend, just the two of us. Maybe it would be good to reconnect. Funny thing is, we’ve been connected throughout this horrible experience. We’ve been on the same page the entire time and are hesitant to give up a moment with the girls. Jenna is nearing the end of her freshman year and from experience we know that the rest of high school will fly by. Kendall will be a senior next year – we will be empty-nesters soon enough. Then she will have nothing but my mug to look at and my guess is that she will feel way too connected with me. I know, it’s only a weekend, but we’ve learned just how precious a few hours can be.
If I haven’t said it enough, my wife is incredible. She gets out of bed every day and pours love over the four of us. Taking care of her girls is what gets her up and she is laser-focused. After a year of being somewhat on their own, they are over-loved, over-conversed, and over-mothered right now. They might not admit it, but I think they are enjoying it. Robin gets out of the house a little now - not a ton, but more. She doesn't like long trips or long visits. Short is good, short doesn't require a lot of preparation or conversation.
For me, I have loved seeing pictures and videos of Kylie from before cancer came to stay. I don’t want to forget the past year, we had some great times of joy amidst the suffering. I would, however like to minimize the final couple of days. I feel the shift happening, but not nearly fast enough. As a father, my principle job is to protect. While my head knows cancer was out of my control, my paternal instinct at times whispers accusations.
I still lack focus. Things seem to happen around me and sometimes I can almost detach from a conversation and watch myself participating in life like an eerie third party. It is so weird. A year ago, I prided myself in being able to keep a dozen balls in the air without dropping any. My first few days back to work I dropped everything like an amateur juggler. I might be up to four now.
So, how are we?
It's still a pretty dumb question. We are parents living in the aftermath of the loss of their daughter. We are about as good as you’d expect. We miss her every minute.
Still, we have hope and faith that we will see her again.
We have each other, and we have you friends who have read this far.
If you want an honest answer, we aren't doing well but we are better than we were a week ago and certainly better than the last Friday, the 13th.
I am not sure how, but I think we’re going to make it.