It's almost here. If you ask Alex how long until Christmas the number of days just whips right off his tongue in a spurt of eagerness and matter-of-fact excitement. He is full of anticipation and its so fun to watch. We've been lighting the fireplace frequently, though the last few days the weather has been rather warm for this time of year, getting into the upper 60s and lower 70s, but its supposed to fall this afternoon and be below freezing by tonight. Its been a fun time and I am looking forward to both the time off work and the time with my loved ones. I am doing a bit better, remembering Joseph yet not dwelling on his death. I know after Christmas will be a let down and the music of life will turn to minor chords and dissonance as his anniversary approaches. I already hear the faint strains of it, but I am just letting it be what it will be and working on enjoying what is in front of me right now. It will get here and it will pass and I suspect bring with it a new shade of grief as the reality that he is not coming back solidifies that little bit more with the one year anniversary passing by. At the same time, I am finding myself "practicing", if you will, letting my mind contemplate being okay without feeling horrible guilt each time something happens that makes my heart swell with peace and happiness. Its hard. I have to consciously think about not feeling bad for feeling good, to remind myself its okay to be happy and give myself permission, and it always results in tears. I am actually crying a LOT these days, but not the heart wrenching, broken sobs of the darkest grief, but more healing tears of farewell. It is difficult to categorize the difference but its very palpable. One is just a mired endless blackness. The other is the recognition of light on the horizon and the realization that life is going to continue and Joseph will not be back, and that I am probably going to want to be happy again and to work toward that end. Its a sorrow that Joseph's life turned out as it did and that it is over, regret for his tragic fate, and yet in a sense a feeling of preparing to carry him with me, a kind of acceptance that was not there before. Yes, its the acceptance. The refusal to accept what has happened has not brought him back. I have worked very hard to keep it from sinking in until these last couple of weeks. I am practicing now accepting his death and it flavors the sadness a different way...still there, but allowing room to live within it. I don't think that sadness will ever go, but I like to think I can find a way to have it, hold it feel it and live with it inside me.....and still pursue my goals and dreams without the cloud of guilt and wrongness around me. I am saying goodbye. One year later, my heart is finally realizing that though I have hunkered down to wait this out, as I did so often through the worst days of his illness, the wait is not going to be lived out in this way. It is a bit like waiting for a door to open, and looking up and realizing the futility of that...that it is not a door, but in fact a wall. It can't move. It can't budge. I cannot wait for God to undo what has happened, for the nightmare to end or for Joseph to heal or the hospital to call wondering where I have been or to tell us there's been a mistake, nor even for the fantasy of the door opening and him walking in like some biblical raised-from-the-dead miracle to occur. I have to wait a different passage, one of space and time yet to be.
I have contemplated many times as my children grow and change and the nature of our parent/child relationship morphs with their different stages how sad it is that we grow up unable to remember how tenderly we were cared for when we were babies and difficult toddlers. How intensely we loved our parents and how intensely they loved us back. I have wished so many times through struggles with Nick and Joseph and starting now for Alex as they strive for independence that they cannot realize the depth of my love for them nor remember any of the beginning of "us", that as they fight me and think I don't understand or don't care that just the opposite is true. Except now, Joseph can. He can see the whole of his life, including those early years. He knows now and that makes me smile. We were so intensely bonded. He was such a wonderful baby and toddler. That bond does not leave us as our children grow. And now I know it does not leave us even if our children die before us.
I am excited about Christmas. Joe is too. I don't know what he got me but he did a LOT of shopping and is just giddy, looking forward to me opening my presents. I am a kid when it comes to presents. I love getting them and giving them both. It will be a fun time. Christmas Eve will be at Mom's and then Stewart will spend the night at our house so that we can have Christmas morning with the kids all of us together. Stewart would normally then take the kids on Christmas day to his parents' house but they are spending Christmas in Vegas this year, so Joe is going to be making a standing rib roast with garlic mashed potatoes and we'll all spend the day together here. I am going to do some baking today and just be getting ready for it all.