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August 26, 2013

The First Day of School

Normally, I’m a yay-er, thrilled to send Abby off to school for another year. Yes, it’s going surreally fast, but it’s always good to get back into a routine. Plus, I love the fall and the start of school is the unofficial start of fall for me, despite the forecast in Texas.

This year is different. The joyful calm at home with Abby at school is completely overshadowed by the empty, screaming silence of David's permanent absence. Our house is too quiet. The weight of the silence is further crushing the hollow, constant weight in my chest. The void inside me continues to grow and spread like a cancer. I wonder when it will stop.

I was fine until Meet the Teacher on Friday. As Abby and I wandered the hallways, we passed the classroom that would have been David’s last year if he were able to attend. I remember last year seeing his little picture on the bulletin board outside the room and on his locker. That same picture now hangs on his bed where Abby placed it earlier this summer. Sadness sucker punched me Friday as I passed the classroom, so I found a private place to cry in the school full of people. I hadn’t cried like that in awhile. In fact, I was doing quite well up until then.

Since then, the grief is heavy. Today it continues to grow. Taking him to school for the first time was so exciting, for all of us. Abby was a proud big sister. David was excited at the new adventure, not to mention all the girls he got to flirt with. In addition to the joy that comes with my childrens’ joy, I got to experience the joyful reprieve of an empty house until I picked David up three hours later. It was our new normal, and those 9 weeks of David in school were without a doubt the best time we experienced as a family of four. I’m grateful for the experience, but it makes the absence of that “normal” all the more painful.

Today we woke Abby up in the traditional way for the first day of school, blasting “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 as we entered her room. It’s one of those accidental traditions that started in kindergarten. Now, it represents both a tradition of silliness and her brother. It, like so many things now, is bittersweet.

As this school year progresses and we learn what our new normal looks like, I wonder if I will ever feel “normal” again. I wonder what that will be like when I do settle in to our new routine. My new routine. I'm still stunned at this reality that continues to wash over me like an unrelenting tsunami. Today, I sit, in silence, letting the reality wash over me, waiting for the next break in the waves.