There is this anticipation or exhaustion in me that is somewhat familiar. He was gone during the week and home on the weekends for a good portion of our marriage. Toward the end of the week my body and mind would ramp up with the anticipation of his homecoming and simultaneously my exhaustion was evident. There was this sweet relief when I’d hear the garage door go up. He’s safe, he’s home, and I am relieved for all of those reasons and more. I’m relieved that we can share the parenting load, the chore load, and we can enjoy our family.
Fast forward to February 2013. I made a last minute decision to go back to my hometown for the weekend. It was our first time to return since his death. The plan was to see, in person, as many friends who had supported and loved me through the last three months. There was an open invitation to meet at Mimi’s Retreat, and while I was nervous and excited to see so many, I was also riddled with guilt for needing a break from my kids. For three months I hadn’t had a break day or night or weekend from being the sole caregiver. I was caring for grieving children while grieving myself. Yet, to admit I needed a night off felt like I was abandoning them. I wonder if they felt abandoned.
I am four days short from an adventure I’ve had planned for months. The anticipation and exhaustion are there. That is the familiar part. The guilt has also returned. To leave for more than a night and to leave the state without my youngest requires so much more planning. There is the consent to medical treatment, and power of attorney, bus passes for school, note to the teachers, packing for both of us and on and on. I look back on the former me almost with embarrassment. She was exhausted by taking care of her own children (and rightfully so) but aside from grocery shopping, she had little more responsibility. Some would say she was blessed, but now I can see there was so much more life she could have lived. I know that it is all relative to experience and world view. Mine was narrow.
There is guilt in the need to take adult time to refresh me, and this time around, there is guilt in leaving while my aging parents, a state away, are both hospitalized in two separate towns. To my children, I tell you, go live your lives even when I am old. I release you of any guilt in the future. You have but one life. I know I am loved and will be loved even from whatever care facility best suits my needs. Choose happiness, choose experiences, choose to be present in whatever moments life presents to you, and I pray to God you feel the sweet relief that all is right with your world when you hear the garage door go up.