Sunday, August 21, 2016

Catch and Release

So, I’m not liking it. 
The whole being done thing.  

This past year was just a big succession of things we had to do: senior pictures, college stuff, grad parties, banquets, and it all kept me so busy, I didn’t really think about the reality of what was coming. Now he’s gone; moved out; grown-up; independent; and I’m walking around in his empty room noticing all the things he left.  I always do that when this happens—when my children leave home for college and I am left in a stupor, lethargic and mourning.  I quietly walk into their rooms and notice things; things they thought not important enough to bring along to their new lifeformerly beloved things: the faded baby blanket kept under a pillow at night; the stuffed panda with a hole in its head; Raggedy Ann whose face is stained pink around her mouth; the soft robe. The robe! Why did he not take the robe??? His old loveys are quarantined in the highest recesses of the closet; Gorilla, Ow the cat, Chocolate Cake the beanie pup.  They look down from their perch waiting for him.

This is my life now. I wander from room to room feeling like doing absolutely nothing, but forcing myself to do the next thing: laundry, then dishes, then cleaning out my broken fridge.  I decide to eat chocolate to placate myself, and, as I put a knife into the peanut butter that I intend to put on my chocolate, I break; big tears falling onto the dining room table; huge, gasping belly sobs that have waited to come out since yesterday when we left him. when we finished the job of daily parenting in our home. We’re done, y’all. DONE.  I didn’t really think it through—the fact that it would all end.  Right about now, I want to be finished with this emptiness and go back to the way things used to be; the busyness and buzz that used to be the Haverkamps. Why do these transitions always punch me so hard in the gut?  I knew I was starting the whole grieving thing when I began to be forgetful a few days ago; and when I stopped eating. I still eat chocolate. obviously. For pete’s sake, he’s close, I tell myself. That helps me. I can still touch him if I want. And smell his head. But it will never be the same, this family we built. I think my mind goes through a kind of shock; trauma; panic; and tries to make sense of it all.  When it can’t, it turns inward, producing yuk. confusion. heaviness.  I’m not sure what to do about it, so I walk around and cry about fuzzy robes and long-forgotten beanie pups.

The second day after his move out, in the afternoon, I feel comatose.  I clean out my pantry of all Gatorade powder, granola bars and regular animal crackers; I save the chocolate ones (because you know, coffee). I never eat these things and what do empty nesters keep in their pantries anyway because mine is mostly bare. I move onto the mudroom and see the Snickers bars in the freezer and I cry. again. I can eat them if I want to, and maybe that would make me feel better, but really they are for a big white boy who doesn’t live here anymore. 

Life is weird.  You just get to a stage that you really enjoy, like when you have all of your kids home and you eat on the porch for supper and then the children rush out the screen door and down the steps so they can play on the swing set all together and you and your husband look at each other and say, “These are the golden years” and you think that those “golden years” will last longer.  But they don’t and so you feel unsettled and everything feels so foreign and hard.  It’s kind of like fishing, the catch and release kind, where it’s fun when you’re doing it, but you know you can’t keep them. I mean really KEEP them.  Release is imminent.

 This unfamiliarity, this quiet, empty feeling, is my new life. When Brent and I had “practice sessions” for empty nesting this summer, it seemed fun and carefree and I was super excited.  But, let me tell you, when it really happens, and it is no longer practice, the whole element of fun turns sour.  I know this feeling is temporary and don’t get me wrong, I AM looking forward to hanging out, just with Brent alone, cause I really like him, but I’m trying to recall life before our kids—the sweet times of just the two of us—and it’s not coming in very clearly—I keep pressing play, but my mind keeps reverting to rewind and all the images of all the things we have done as a family keep appearing on my brain. It will come into focus, I’m sure, when the newness becomes normality, and when I stop making so much extra food (do you know you don’t have to use all the pasta in the bag? You can use just half. It keeps).  It’s just Brent and me now; that’s how it’s going to be, God-willing, for a very long time. Because I know that, even though Cole is close, he will never really live at home again permanently. Our family will never live here all together again.  Our job, here, is done.  

It’s been a very long job. 
And a very short job.  
And the best job that I ever had.  
And the hardest job I ever had.  
And I will miss it.  
And I will [some day] be glad we're done.  
And I will wish I had time to do more things with them.  
And I will welcome my own independence. 
I will adjust.  
I will wake up happy again.  

Right now though, when things feel strange, I will remember to thank God who blessed me with more joy than I could ever imagine.  And I will be thankful, so very thankful, because He has been very good to me.

So very, very good.

I will sing the LORD's praise, for he has been good to me.  
Psalm 13:6

Monday, August 1, 2016

'member that time?

‘member that time when my friend Jody and I played hooky from a conference we were attending and decided to go ride a gondola (that’s the flat-bottomed boat gonDOLA not the snow-capped mountain tram GONdola)?  And member how when we were walking there, some sketchy guy was about to pass us on the sidewalk so Jody nonchalantly switched her purse to the shoulder opposite him?  Then, member how he yelled at her after we passed him and he said, “I would never steal anything from you, sister!  I would put something in your purse!” or somethin’ like that?  Whatever that means.  And how he kept saying it over and over and over? And how we decided to take a different way home after our gondola ride?

And member, how when we got to the ride place, there was some drunk guy staggering around in the ice cream shop beside the so-called river that the gondolas were in?  And how he bought two more beers to take along with him on the ride?  And member when that ride returned, the gondola drivers who were wearing their little striped scarves, scurried out to quickly clean something off the floor of the boat?  Yeah, that was weird and I think it was throw up.

And remember when we finally got to go on a ride with that older couple who took FOREVER to eat their pre-voyage snack, that we thought it was going to be so cool and fun because the gondolier sang to us in Italian?  But then, member how it was really just a fake canal and we pretty much just looked at houses and concrete and people walking on the sidewalk and it only took like 20 minutes and how we paid big bucks for that?  Yeah, me too.

At least the gelato was tasty. 

Next time, let’s play hooky in Venice.