SUMMER: take 2

DSC06930I have a big chalkboard near my kitchen and last summer I made long list of all the fun things we were going to do from June-August. We made it though some of them, Great Wolf Lodge, snow cones…and then our summer abruptly stopped. When it stuttered back up again, 16 days later, I didn’t care about the list anymore. In fact, I think I erased it quickly after we returned home. Instead, our family retreated. Shep was terribly weak from spending so many days in bed, and my brain was fuzzy, my heart felt fragile, and my nerves were shot. We spent a lot of time on the couch. We didn’t care. We were just happy to be there together.

I remember driving out to Stillwater with the kids for a birthday party of my best friend’s oldest daughter. It was about a month and half after Shep’s release from the hospital. I thought it would be a fun outing, and didn’t think twice that Erron couldn’t come with us. In my defense, I had never experienced a ‘big kid’ birthday party before, and this one felt huge. I had totally underestimated what I was in for. Even though it was familiar, the sheer size of my friend’s house was problem number one. Add to that tons of guests and kids running everywhere. Naturally, my two kids went in opposite directions the minute they entered the door. The whole thing felt like an out of body experience. What if Char fell down the stairs, or got hurt in the bounce house full of big kids? And where the HELL is Shep? I mentally couldn’t loose track of him for longer than 30 seconds. The worst (and craziest) part was stressing over everyone’s opinion of me if I didn’t have both kids in my sights at all times. I was doomed, the set up made that impossible for any single parent. Still, “What will they think of me?” was on repeat in my head. Everyone there knew our story and I couldn’t shake it. I was a train wreck. I made it a little over an hour on polite autopilot, then as soon as I could, I said goodbye to my friend, and bolted, vowing never to go to a birthday party without back-up again. It was a humbling drive home, knowing I was obviously not as “fine” as I thought I was.

Yet here were are, halfway though another summer twelve months later and things feel so different. It’s amazing how much time is needed to really recover from a blow like we had, but on the flip side, it’s impressive how much time really has healed us. This summer has been full of wins for our little family. We watched Aunt B get married. We sleep in together, and we move slow, because we want to. We’ve done the neighborhood pool over and over again, and it’s fun every time. (I still avoid home pools, but we’ll get there.) We’ve hit up splash pads, museums and done sleepovers with the Grands. Most things I’ve done with the kids solo, just like I used to, but Erron’s been around for just as many, which means the little people are in family bliss. Shep’s had some personal wins: On the rare occasion Shep leaves the pool steps, he swims, and he loves it. And one day, early in the summer, he looked at his pedaled bike, which had been sitting in the garage for nearly a year, and decided he was ready to use it. This was huge for little man who does these things on his own timetable and cannot be rushed. The new, shiny summer memories have piled up over our broken ones from last year and the season returned itself back into my good graces.

It took a whole year, but it happened. Our Reclaim-the-Date party felt like turning a page to end a long and difficult chapter. It released me to start over this summer, feeling lighter, braver than before. Last year I couldn’t wait for summer to end, I desperately craved a season change to even begin processing what had just happened. This year, I’ll be sad to see it go.

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