I'm less than a month from my 40th birthday. A lot of my classmates have bucket lists, are scheduling special ways to celebrate, and doing various things to make this milestone from small trips to reinventing their goals. My script has changed so many times already, but a few times I've had to change with it, rather than making the changes. At 27, I got married. That was my plan. I also quickly became a part time caregiver...that part, not so much my plan. At 30 I had my first child and became a mother. Her conception was planned. Thomas' illness seemed to be under control. We asked God for help and well..did what we needed to do and had fun doing it That was more or less the end of that.
At 33, the wind tossed us again. I was a full-time mother and caregiver with both my daughter and my husband at home unable to care for themselves. My daughter required my care because she was three years-old, my husband because he was incapacitated from several progressive conditions. At 36, I found out I was pregnant again. Someone planned it, but it wasn't me. Thomas was working again but fragile. Our house was too small for another person due to the unusual living arrangements the illness forced upon us. Specifically, Thomas and I could not share a bedroom, but we hoped to one day. When I got pregnant he promised to get it figured out by the time our son was three years-old. That became our plan. At 37, our story took another turn when I came home with my daughter, then six, and that new baby boy who was two months old and found Thomas had died in his sleep. I have spent the last two and a half years since that day on a new road.
Sometimes it's lonely and sometimes it is frigtening. Ariana is nine. Elijah is two years-old. We have learning challenges, and potty training. I have a house to pay for and take care of and a vehicle to do the same. But oh my I could not have asked for two better children. There just aren't any words. They're the best. I have a developing career, but I have slowed its progression in favor of being there for my children. And I wonder, am I losing myself in their care, the way I nearly lost myself in Thomas' care. It took a lot of time for me to begin to visualize a life without my husband, more to want to plan our future and now trying to see the woman beyond mommy is a whole other level of difficulty. My children are my world, and right now it is mutual, but it won’t always be the case. I have rewritten the script a few times and it seems like every time there is a rewrite, I push myself to the back. I still have personal dreams, desires, big and snall, but who has time? I'm becoming confident in us having a good life as a family. I'm just still unsure of who I'll be beyond mommy. It seems the more I figure out, the more there is to figure out.
There is physical and emotional progress. There have been a lot of changes here. I realized earlier in the year, that if Thomas were to come back there would be absolutely nothing here for him as far as what he used in his daily life. He has been gone for nearly 2.5 years and believe me, I am well aware he won't return. There's just something about moving those possessions out of the house. As our son grew, it became increasingly difficult to keep Thomas' stuff around. At a certain point it seemed like it was us or his stuff. It was that much. To get an idea: seven boys got four pair of shoes each and I had half left. It took eight of U-Haul’s largest boxes to pack up the clothes I had left after I gave a man with two sons nineteen suits and four other men received a box each of various items. The hats and neckties were divided among seven men after my stepson took what he wanted.
I converted the man cave (the room he died in) into our son’s bedroom, which included removing all of the furniture except the chest of drawers, which now contain our son’s clothes and moving the 42 inch flat screen he loved from there to the family room downstairs. I also painted the walls and put up “little boy” décor. With the exception of my favorite suit, which I kept and his favorite suit, which I buried him in, and a few dress shirts, all of his clothes and shoes are gone, either donated or disposed of depending on their condition. I sent his uniforms back to the post office for others to wear. His vehicles are gone too.
All of that took me two years to do, but I had nightmares for a week about him coming back and being extremely upset that all of his stuff was gone. This was with the fact he actually told me to give his clothes away. I would wake up breathing heavily and sweating. Then I would flop back down on the bed remembering he was not going to return. Still today I have moments where his death doesn't seem real. He was larger than life in so many ways that sometimes it doesn't just seem unreal that he's gone, it seems wrong. He made his presence felt everywhere he went and his care became the focus. It was life or death. I removed his stuff. His presence will always be here. He's a part of us.
Is anything left? Two of his recliners are still here, but not the one he sat in most of the time. He passed away in it and I had it removed. His Bibles, books and videos are still here. His awards are still here and his pictures though I have rearranged things a lot. I kept the things I would need to show the children who he was. His books will show what he studied most about faith, how important it was to him that his home have God at the front. His Bible with the highlights and worn out pages will show how he built himself up for the difficult journey he was on. Some things are displayed and some things are packed away. My son is getting really good at "recognizing" him. While cleaning I found a picture of him that was a good 10 years old. It was a picture I took of him sitting on a beach reading. I asked Elijah who it was. He smiled, hopped up and said "daddy!" It amazes me how he does that with so much emotion given how old he was when Thomas passed.
I have the stuff up that honors Thomas in two centralized places in the house. There are two pictures of us together. The rest are his awards and other things that speak to who he was. It has been my intention keep him before the children, especially since it will be my job to put him into our son's heart as they weren't together long enough for him to do it himself. But over time, my goal is for the walls to also speak to who we are as we grow, the children and I.
Our lives have to do that too. Now two and a half years down the road, I can look back and see what a process it has been for us just to become the focus of our own lives while keeping Thomas' memory alive. I had to acknowledge our right to go on without him, allow God to show us the way forward and then move. I think that is a process I'll continue to go through. With most decisions and developments in our lives I have to go through the steps again. Our story is far from finished.