- earned a four-year degree
- gotten married and changed my name
- become a step-mother to a wonderful group of boys
- watched my eldest son graduate from high school (he is the first in two generations in my family to have done so)
- started two businesses, one of which is starting to really thrive
- gotten a great job at a university (I love the atmosphere at universities!)
- become a newspaper columnist on the side
- and developed for myself a comfortable, though unusual lifestyle.
In January, my oldest stepson passed away. I can say all sorts of things here, about reeling, about devastation, about loss and other cliches but nothing can truly describe it. There are the the commonly accepted five stages of grief, and I accept that as a truth after this experience. I am in the supposedly final stage of acceptance, but I waver between accepting what happened and hiding from it in the depression stage. When it happened, the whole family slid down this murky bank of despair and we had to grow these amazing spiritual muscles to help pull each other out and back into the sunlight. It took months to climb out, and there are days when one or all of us slide back down. His birthday is coming up -- next week in fact -- and I have a real, physical fear of that day and what it will do to us. I am bracing. But keep in mind, I am just his step mother. I stand by and feel these feelings and wipe the tears off my cheeks. And I watch his father and his mother buckle under the weight of true loss, while I am powerless to take that loss away from them, while I am powerless to shoulder that burden so they don't have to, though I wish every day I had that power.
This was one reason why we had the wedding -- to have something light to share after sharing something so dark. We were married on the first day of Spring under an old oak tree at Husband's grandparents home. The tree had just begun to bud, and winter's storm clouds had been swept away by the spring sunshine. We celebrated under that sun, and publicly celebrated our family and friends and our commitment to one another, knowing how tenuous life is. Knowing how short spring and summer truly are. Knowing that winter comes again. And again. And that is life.
In May, my next oldest stepson, G, married a beautiful and intelligent girl, M, at the foot of a snowy mountain in the Sierras. They moved back home this fall. We used to make jokes about adult children living with their parents, but we are having a good time having the kids near us. We appreciate it more than we ever did before. We want them to stay.
So, in my blogging absence, I have learned to count my blessings. I have learned that blessings come and go. We rejoice when they come; we mourn when they go. And for some reason, we always forget that this is the cycle of life. I am rejoicing now, while I still can.