One:  Holidays Are Not Scary

I dreaded spending the coming holidays at home.  I thought being around friends here, in all the familiar places, would too easily remind me that we were one less.   I think Juan and I were on the same page, which made it easy to plan our escape.  This past Summer was our most traveled probably since we’ve been together.

We hit the road Memorial Day weekend,

Fourth of July weekend

and in August when Lucas’ day care closed for a week.

With Labor Day coming, the thought that Fall was on the horizon set me on edge.  I watched for signs of yellowing leaves.  Fall meant Halloween and Halloween meant no T and then Winter would come and that meant Christmas and Christmas meant no T.  And all of that meant more mushy weepy-ness.

But Halloween came and went.  We survived it just fine and even managed to have a little fun.  I’m thinking now that the rest of the year looks a lot brighter.

Two:  Reading is Fun

Before Summer began, if an object didn’t have buttons and lights, bleep, chirp and run on batteries, Lucas wasn’t interested.  But then June arrived, and he suddenly decided books were in vogue.  I was ecstatic about Lucas’ new found interest but not looking forward to disturbing the vigil T’s books silently held in the now boy-less room across the landing.

I couldn’t imagine reading Goodnight Moon,  the How Do Dinosaurs books or any of T’s books about planes, trains or firetrucks to anyone but T…at least not without the wall-crumbling-sobbing-weeping thing.  But I couldn’t deny Lucas or myself the fun of reading, so I pushed forward in spite of what I might face.  At first, it wasn’t at all easy, but the nightly before-bedtime ritual has become once again one of my favorite moments of the day.

Three:  Rethinking Foster Care

Call me crazy, but I can imagine fostering again.  I believe that my head and heart would be in a different place the next time around.  I know what to expect of the system and of me.  The visits with the biological family, the court proceedings, the social workers inspecting our electrical outlet covers – I’d handle all of this while holding onto the idea that I’m a foster parent, not a foster-hope-to-adopt parent.  If a child were to remain with us permanently, that would be lovely, but I wouldn’t approach the process with that goal in mind.

This is what I tell myself as of November 12, 2011 at 10:29 pm.  But hey, it’s a long way from where I was a few months ago.

Four:  No More Tears Shopping

Giant Foods was the last place I thought I would have to avoid.   There were other places that seemed smarter to have at the top of the list.

His favorite playground – We spent many fun days there.   I could not imagine tolerating the sight of kids running, sliding, swinging and laughing and T not be in the mix.

Our local coffee joint –  T was known to customers and workers alike.  He’s gone were not words I wanted to say to them.

even Rite Aid.  T would spend what seemed like hours picking out a toy car.  There were times when his indecision was annoying, but we usually had a good time.  occasionally, we would sit outside the store and enjoy an ice cream sandwich.

I knew when T left us that the shadow he left behind in these places would be too hard to ignore.

But Giant?  The bright lights, polished floors and shelves of toilet paper, juice and bread aren’t exactly the things tragedy is made of.

So I was caught completely by surprise the first time I became a puddle of weepy mush on what should have been just a routine shopping trip.  Up until the dramatic moment, everything had been fine.  I had no problem making the grocery list.  I was fine driving to the store.  No racing heart.  No sweaty palms.  When I turned left off the main road into the parking lot, I had no feelings of doom or dread.   And once inside, I made it past the fruit and vegetables section without a single sob.

But something happened as I pushed my cart past the coffee and tea and guided it left into the cereal aisle.  At that moment, Quaker Granola Bars were to my right and shelves of sugary cereals were to my left.   Something triggered a thought and then a feeling and before I could stop it, my wall of defenses – the wall I wasn’t much aware of at the time – suddenly and noisily crumbled.  And there I was, on unsteady legs, waterworks flowing indiscreetly and uncontrollably.

I’m not sure what set me off.  It could have been the shadow that flitted past me, whispering ganohla bars in my ear in a voice that sounded much like T’s.  He always had trouble with the gr in granola.   Maybe it was the flash of a vision I had of T sitting at the dining room table, happily cramming a spoonful of Peanut Butter Puffins into his mouth.  Or it could have been the sudden realization that I would no longer be packing ganohla bars in his lunch again.  Whatever the reason, at the time I felt like grocery shopping was forever changed and I had not expected that at all.

In the months that followed T’s return to his parents, the weepy mushy experience became an almost weekly ritual.  Shop and cry.  Shop and cry.  Shop and cry.  Finally, on some random shopping day in late August, I realized I had made it through the entire store without a single tear.  Progress.

Five:  Hand Me Downs Are Ok

I couldn’t separate T from T’s things.  The toys, books and clothes – especially the clothes – seemed so much a part of T that I couldn’t imagine them belonging to any other child, even one of my own.  That posed a dilemma for how to dress Lucas.  We could buy a whole new wardrobe for him or pull out the boxes of T’s old clothes still packed away in the basement.  Eventually, option 2 won out, leaving us with the task of digging through memories.   Fun, eh?  It’s an understatement to say my first efforts were difficult.  Ultimately, I managed to get through it by pulling out only the things that seemed somehow less T.  These were the clothes without strong memories attached to them.  That didn’t leave Lucas with much.  It got easier though and now, I think I’m able to put Lucas in just about anything of T’s and even smile.

Six:  Dreaming of T

I dream about T regularly.  Usually, the dreams involve him coming to visit us.  When I wake from one of those dreams, I’m happy.  I”m happy to have spent some time with him.  I’m happy to have held him in my arms.  I’m happy to have seen him smile that perfect smile most of you have never had the pleasure of seeing or experiencing.

It wasn’t always this way – the happiness,  I mean.  I used to wake up feeling immense despair and loss.  The dreams would be so vivid.  So real.  I’d wake up and suddenly and painfully realize that what I thought was real was in fact not even close.  I didn’t see him.  I didn’t hug and hold him.  He wasn’t in the room next to ours, spending the night for a sleepover and sleeping soundly.   Waking up was like a punch in the gut, a kick in the groin and a brick to the head for good measure.

But in the last couple of months, I’ve looked forward to my dreams, hoping to just catch a glimpse of him.  

Seven:  I’m blogging again