Six Months

Dear Chad,
Six months ago today, I said goodbye to you.
Each second of that day is stamped in my heart, written in my eternal memory.

Half a year has passed without you.
It still, at times, seems unreal.

I didn’t write a letter to you last month. I didn’t forget; I just didn’t have words.
I feel like regurgitate words, spill them out over and over again.
I overflow with the same, tired words.
I’m almost tired of hearing myself talk about how much I, we, miss you.

A lot has happened in the last two months, and even though we’re going through a “good” emotional period, it’s still hard to live a life that seems incomplete.

Carys learned to ride her bike without training wheels.
I remember you trying to teach her a little over a year ago; removing the training wheels, knowing she was ready.
She wasn’t quite as confident though, so you put them back on.
But, now…now, she rides every day. She gives me mini heart attacks each time she turns too sharply or glides down our neighbor’s driveway too quickly or falls face-first into the pavement. You would love it, though. And you would have been so proud at how determined she was to learn. Even when her daily biking endeavor ends with tears because she tasted a little too much asphalt for her liking, she gets right back on and gets back to it.
In celebration, I allowed her to pick out any big girl bike she wanted.
You should have seen the proud beam on her sweet little freckled face.
Pink and covered with ladybugs and glittery streamers used to flutter in the wind before she fell too hard a few times and tore them all and a hand brake – it’s definitely one of her new favorite things.

Not to be outdone by her sister, Cailyn has also learned to ride a bike.
You know how stubborn that child is; she does things on her time, when she feels like it and with a panache that only she has.
I also allowed her to pick out her very own bike, complete with a seat in the rear for her beloved sidekick Maisy.
She later told me that she never wanted to ride a bike before because she wanted one of her own, one that she picked out.
Now if that isn’t Cailyn, I don’t know what is…

And I’m trying new things, too.

I bit the bullet and applied to the local community college.
Remember the first time I tried to do this?
It was shortly before we found out Carys was on the way, in early 2003.
I was heartbroken that I just couldn’t make it work with a full-time career and a baby on the way.
But you promised me I would go back when the time is right.
And honestly, there is no time like the present.
All along, I think this was part of your plan, making sure I would be able to follow my dream and become something better than myself.
I feel like a caged butterfly, peeking out into a vibrant world I couldn’t see through my dense emotional cocoon.
The good new is — the cage is too small to keep me anymore.

Carys is nearing the send of the first grade year.
And Cailyn is about to graduate from preschool.
Such big girls. Too big, too fast.

You didn’t get to see them on their first day of school this year, as you were moved to hospice about a week before school started.
And you won’t be here to celebrate with us on the last day of school. Or attend our annual pancake feast on the first official day of Summer.
It seems unfathomable that you didn’t attend a single school event or lunch or field trip or carpool pick-up.

They amaze me with their daily trials; the things they get into! I don’t know if you would chuckle or be annoyed because they are completely girly — something foreign to you. I remember trying to teach you to fix Carys’ hair so you could help me with the morning routine. You decided to resume your career as an engineer instead of a hairdresser.
(And I just want you to know I’m about to give up on my little-people-hairdressing skills, too. Something about tangles and tears and little voices arguing over which hairbow matches…)

The last two months have been healing for me.
I’ve finally been able to let go of the guilt and release myself from the emotional trauma of being your wife versus being your caregiver. I did the best I could, loved you as much as I could and hoped for the best. I see it all clearly now, but I sure did beat myself up about it for a while.

I have more energy lately, I’ve regained a semi-normal appetite and sleep better.
I still think of you all the time, but the tears I’ve often shed at the thought of losing you are being replaced with laughter and fondness for all the good times that came before the not-so-good ones.
I’m making more time for myself and making some small improvements to the house, things we put off for rainy days and tax refunds.

The first four months after your death were some what of a blur. I was on auto-pilot. I prepared lunchboxes and maintained a routine, for the sake of the girls. I had no routine for myself, except for sleeping, feeling guilty that  I too often offered take-out for dinner and constantly trying to figure out where I went wrong, what I missed that would have kept you here with us. I know, and I knew, there is nothing I could have done, but I felt so out of control of my own life that I couldn’t help but dwell on what I could have controlled in yours.
I literally scraped myself out of bed each morning, got the girls off to school and came back home to sleep. I slept all the time. Every day. Grief is exhausting, and I had no idea what a toll that would take on my body.
I’ve lost a lot of weight int he last year, which has its benefits, but I was also starting to look unwell. A little gaunt. Definitely pale and frazzled. I put myself together for the benefit of others, trying to delay or squash their temptation to begin the ‘are you feeling okay?’ conversation. I wasn’t. I wanted to feel okay, so I pretended to be.
Even though I had sorted through so many of these emotions for nearly three years before I actually needed to, they sorted through me when it was time.

Now, I am focusing on me.
On becoming a better version of my prior self.
On being the best possible mother, friend, confidant, healer and constant force du jour our girls deserve.
On what I want and need from this life in order to feel complete again.
On preparing for the rest of my life, the next chapter.

I, we, have survived the first six months without your physical presence.
I, we, will survive six more.

We miss you so very much.


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