These past four weeks, I have not cried. Haven’t shed a single tear.
Not when presented with missed opportunities, lost experiences (and financial reimbursements), and the monotonous daily grind. Not when discovering that the worst was yet to come. Not when reading heart-breaking accounts and watching soul-ripping moments. Not even when I could not see family, whom I love, nor when special events were celebrated in isolation.
I just can’t conjure them up.
I actually feel numb most of the time. I am writing through it, trying to keep myself in the present moment. Trying to stay grounded. I am walking through it, too. Walking to keep my anxiety down. Walking to release pent up energy and tension. And I continue to keep a routine, getting up in the morning, making my bed.
I still start my work day at the same time, computer blinking lights and emitting electronic vibrations, all in anticipation of that first message of the day from my employer, arriving at 8:00 a.m. sharp in the in-box queue. I carry on with making calls, emailing, keeping my case notes, meeting up with colleagues on-line.
I even aim for three square meals a day, keep the laundry going, vacuum the house.
I text family. Friends. Work colleagues.
I do a lot.
But I don’t cry.
I just can’t.
Recently, my daughter had a request. She asked if I could take her by two friends’ roads for a birthday parade. These sweet girls both turned 16 the same day. The activity of driving by in a procession is nothing out of the ordinary; in fact, it is a regular occurrence across North America, and probably the world. Many people I know do birthday parades. I have seen many of them rolling across the FB feed and heard about them on the news.
She asked, and I said ‘yes’.
And so we planned our venture suitably, timing it for after I had carried out my morning work expectations (me, adjusting my schedule accordingly; her sitting in the van, honking the horn rather impatiently!). I was running late, as per usual, hoping to get there to the meet-up, just in the nick of time.
The sky was the purest blue. The breeze, brisk. The sun, glowing what little warmth it could afford on this mid-April day.
We drove and we enjoyed the ride.
As we pulled up close to the little country church in the backend of rural PEI, I could see a generous line up starting to form with birthday greeters waiting in their cars, stationary on both sides of the road. I ended up lining behind an older couple, in anticipation of the fire truck leading the way. Awaiting the signal, minutes ticking by.
In those few isolated moments, the first of more to come (in which we were motionless waiting there), something about the way the gentleman in the car in front of me was struggling with the balloons triggered in me, a break of emotion.
It was endearing and so pure. His love, evident for all to see.
I sat there, watching, wondering, all the while, heart wrenching.
Was it the way he determinedly tied balloons on the roof rack, a gift of joy for his beloved granddaughter? Was it just the sheer determination to fasten tightly those recalcitrant balloons, decorations which struggled, belligerently, to take flight and reach the heavens—that broke within me, the dam of resistance?
Was it the circumstances? The important people missing from the line-up, who have since left this earth (her dear daddy recently passed)? Was it the solitary photographer keeping account of the moment in time, for which we had all gathered? Was it the anticipation of what was to come? Or the joy of seeing this first, sweet girl’s face in the coming minutes, as she stood at the end of her raod? Was it the recognition in me, of another mama’s love for her precious girl?
Was it the sheer goodness, the love, of all these people, coming together and bearing witness to this momentous event in the life of a young girl?
What was it?
I cannot say. I simply came undone.
Inside, the breaking of something hard and impenetrable. Ground opening up. Waters released. Tensions shattered. Composure wrecked. Feelings and thoughts within, jumbling together in a cacophony, competing with the radio and children’s voices in my van.
This moment, this was it for me. A defining point in time where I immediately saw something deep and visceral, something happening around me— of which I was part, but still just observing.
Something real and impactful.
Later, we are driving home, van quiet with pensive thoughts and treasured memories. My daughter turns to me and says, “I think after this is all over, we are going to appreciate life so much more.” I look over to where she sits, passenger side, this beautiful face glowing, with windswept hair gently framing her perfect teenaged features.
I love her unconditionally.
I turn away, eyes back on the road and then allowing them to gaze off into the horizon, seeing the world that stretches out in front of me, open and inviting, I answer.
Yes, I say.