Yesterday I decided to go back country skiing at LoLo Pass with Emerald. In planning, it seemed like a great idea. John was here for the weekend, this would get him most of the way home. Emerald could sleep in and ride up with another mutual friend. I’d have to do a bit more driving to get home, but it seemed a small sacrifice compared to the joy of being in the snow with people I love.
I threw far too much gear and an abundance of food into the car. Grabbed the iPod and the cell phone that gets no reception on any part of that drive. Just me and my thoughts for a full 4 hours…and then it hit. Driving up the Lochsa, memories of all the camping spots and hot spring soaks, anticipating my first back country ski outing with my daughter without her dad. The old and familiar grief. Driving past the take out, glimpsing the grotto, I was in full on racking sobs. We stopped to look at Lochsa Falls, which at this time of year is merely a trickle through some impressive boulders. By then, I was merely leaking a little, with eyes and nose red. John got out of his car and just held me. He says I need to give grief the time and space it deserves. By the time I got to the pass, I was again giddy with the delight of seeing my daughter, and the prospect of a day on snow with her. The old and familiar grief had passed. The snow conditions were….challenging. There was not a lot of energy that could be given over to grief. It took everything I had to keep up with that daughter of mine.
On the very tired drive home, I thought about the old grief. Slipping into it is familiar…and in an odd way comforting. I know it. It has been my constant companion for the last couple of years. It is a wellspring of sadness that I understand. It is also incredibly self-indulgent, and distracts me from the very real challenges that are present here…and today:
- People I love are struggling with cancer diagnoses. While not labeled “terminal”, there are still medical appointments to keep track of and decisions to be made about care. I will miss a friend’s memorial to take Jasper to see his sister for the weekend. I’ve just heard of another family decimated by a GBM diagnosis. Even though life is a terminal condition, I still think dealing with cancer while living sucks.
- We are waiting to hear back on college applications for Jasper. His closest option is an 8+ hour drive, we are visiting the others via a plane over Spring Break. I will truly have an empty nest very soon. I asked Jasper what happens to “family dinner” when there no longer is a family. He replied, “You’ll still eat well, won’t you?” I hope so.
- I’m in a new relationship. Though he may be old and familiar to me, he is a new face to my children, my family, and most of my current friends. I desperately want everyone to get along, but also know I cannot forge their relationships. Being true to myself, while also recognizing that this is not about me, is hard.
By the time I got home last night, I was toast. I will give the old and familiar grief the time and space it deserves. I will take comfort in it while still looking ahead. And I will be grateful that it again opens me up to the bittersweet nature of this thing we call life.