A Milestone in, or toward, Life 2.0
The milestones pile up, big and small, three years' worth, and they are all linked to loss: When I removed my wedding ring. The anniversaries, birthdays, child’s birthdays, ritual vacations. First Thai food without Gavin. First Mom, and 4-year-old, at a playdate who didn’t know I was a widow. First trip to the grocery store where I didn’t buy a lot of cookie comfort.
This one was new and it snuck up on me. I had my first parent-teacher conference this week with my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. First her speech teacher came in and summarized progress toward her goals. I had some questions (Should I correct her diction when she’s talking to herself? Which is about 2 hours of each day. “No.”) but overall the teacher said Shortie’s doing really well and may not be referred for services next year.
And then the teacher and I went through evaluating all her little successes: reading simple words. “Understanding statistics at a kindergarten level,” WTF is that? Social adjustment, managing her food allergy, etc. She is especially enthusiastic, as I know, about art, and excellent with scissors. In all things, my daughter looks to be flourishing. I smiled.
“Now, Short Stack has mentioned that her father died. Can you tell me some more about that?”
I hadn’t told the teacher.
A milestone that went unmarked at the time: The first time I didn’t mention the loss, at ALL, in meeting someone really important to my child.
I was shocked, sad, happy that I’d gotten away with it: and surprised it took me this long to see that back in September, there was at least one occasion when I didn’t need the attention devoted to a widow.
I blabbered my spiel in incredible surprise: her father, his illness, my general state, basics of grief in kids her age, support we’d gotten. I reaasured her that we talk about him and I’m always honest, and while experts have told me all her reactions so far are typical, she should feel free to let me know if she has any concerns. And I told her about other changes in Short Stack’s life: the death of one grandma, our move to a new neighborhood, Mr. Fresh joining the family. How she refers to him as “Dad” but also says, “I’m a artist like my Daddy,” meaning Gavin.
Everything was OKAY. I’d again escaped injuring my child despite incredible flakiness. I was again grateful for sensitive teachers who have to cope with all our parenting gaps. Grateful I’d avoided a single-Mom breakdown for three years and am now out of those particular woods (breakdown is still possible, but I’m not single ☺).
Is this a milestone of loss, or of Life 2.0? It’s a mark of the absence of loss, the mark death doesn’t leave, of me TRULY living with it and beyond it. Maybe a hint, if not the first, of defining myself as something other than a widow.
I’m just plain happy to be here. And I feel a little less skeptical to, maybe, call a life, at some time, a “New Normal.”
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