Each holiday brings its challenge. We got through Easter with little difficulty because there were few memories of Jon connected to that holiday for us. Mother's Day, however, loomed large and I wondered how the day might go.
Some of the apprehension disappeared when Jon's wife called to say she and the girls were coming up to spend the weekend with us. This was a real pleasure because we seldom saw Jon's family on Mother's Day; they usually came home on Memorial Day. Then our family reunions began to be held the third weekend of May so it was simpler to get together then. This year would be different, and I welcomed the prospect of having more family around for the holiday.
How did it go? Predictably, there were times that were difficult. Memories of times they'd spent as a family at our house flooded our minds. And yet it was also very good as we talked about our feelings and where we are at this point--our sadness, sense of loss, even anger, frustration, and on top of all that, happiness. Happiness at knowing our family is a good family, strong and supportive, people who can be depended on. Happiness at knowing that Jon is so deeply missed and his memory treasured, and at seeing his daughters working to find their feet and firmly continue on their way, strong on the foundation he built for them with his wife. One continues her volleyball success; another is exploring the world of music; the third is writing, the medium where she finds expression; and the fourth is establishing her own home and family as she looks ahead to completing her nursing degree.
For the adults the road seems to be a little rockier and treacherous. We find ourselves happy and laughing at one moment, in tears the next. We are learning to talk about how we feel even as the tears track steadily down our faces. No one comments on them or feels a need to wipe them away--they are a natural part of this conversation, and their absence might be more noticeable than their presence. This isn't to say the younger generation doesn't have the same level of grief--I know that they do; perhaps it is that we knew him and loved him longer, that our memories reach far back in our lives, that makes our grief more multi-faceted, reflecting joy and regret as well as sadness back at us as we remember his loved face.
Sometimes I find that I avoid saying something because to say it would bring down everyone else at a time when we're all happy and laughing. Sometimes I am appalled at my own choice of words--"that kills me," or "deader than a doughnut." References to death in any offhand remark strike harshly on my ears, even though I know these are commonplace slang expressions and most people don't even think when using them. I'm over-sensitive to songs with lyrics of lost love, to television or movie images of the dead. I cannot look at or hear such things casually any more. I know I am not alone in this; others in my family have mentioned the same sensitivity and the sideways onslaught of grief that can attack at unexpected moments, such as a song on the car radio or over the speakers in a store.
So how was my Mother's Day? After all of the above ruminations, you may be thinking, "Oh poor thing, she must have cried all day!" That is far from the truth. The weekend was one of the best I can remember in many ways, with our little great-granddaughter running round in my kitchen, good food being fixed, long conversations with granddaughters, my sons and my daughters-in-law, driving lessons on a big pickup truck and a standard shift car for a few teenagers (my new gravel now has proud spin-out marks from the take-offs in the standard!), time by the firepit, and a good Saturday morning breakfast at the Downtowner. There was a golf game for some of the adults, music on Saturday night, cake-making on Sunday, a trip to see Jordan's new decks and gravel (a universal expense in Jackson county at this time of year, I think), tomato plants taken to new homes and all of the normal, happy activities of a family get-together.
This milestone passed safely, not without a few tears but with a lot of hugs and laughter. Each time we get together, we heal more. New pain surfaces, but someone is always there to help us over the bad places. There is nothing as good for our souls as being together and remembering the many happy times we had with Jon and with each other in this motley, hardy crew we call family.