Tom’s birthday and other stuff
This week was Tom’s birthday. I remember the first birthday we celebrated without him – he’d been gone just barely two weeks. I was still in a state of shock. We had dinner with family and brought along a lemon cake that Tom had a fondness for. Last year, grateful to have one of Tom’s signature recipes, I invited all my local family and made rice and beans to celebrate. The food tasted exactly like I remembered. It felt like the perfect tribute. Afterwards I was violently ill and worried that somehow I had given everyone food poisoning!! But I realize now it was probably some sort of emotional reaction. This year I finally feel like I am emerging from a dark place after an emotionally difficult summer. I didn’t want to somehow disrupt the fragile peace and happiness I am feeling and didn’t plan any kind of celebration. But as the day arrived, it felt like we should do something. Driving home from school with Haley, I asked what she wanted to do. She suggested getting balloons to release. I suggested we get a key lime pie which was a favorite of Tom’s. On the way home I remembered that there were still a couple of filets in the freezer and thought I could fire up the grill and give cooking steaks another try. Summer grilling was a standard in our home and steak was certainly Tom’s favorite food to grill!! So we put together an impromptu birthday dinner and it felt perfect. After we ate and wrote our birthday messages, we walked out our backyard and into the park and let the balloons go and remembered how much we love Tom.
Yesterday I decided it was time to clean out Andrew’s room. When he left last fall I just closed the door so I didn’t have to look at the holes in the walls and the mess. When my sister came to stay (when was that??) I did have to go in and clean and change sheets and vacuum so her kids could stay in the room, but afterwards I closed it back up. This summer we have all realized that Andrew is probably not going to come back home to live. His goal now is to start preparing to transition to independent living (though not until he ages out of the program he is currently in). Although I’m relieved because Andrew not living at home has been SO much better for Haley (and me), it has also been a little heartbreaking. Tom and I spent ten LONG years doing everything we could think of (and learned about) to help Andrew develop emotionally healthy bonds to our family. We love him and were consistent and reliable and got him appropriate professional help and supported him with his challenges… And he is living in a very restrictive environment where he is making very little progress and he doesn’t want to come home to live – just to visit. All of which tells me that living in a place where he doesn’t have to deal with emotional attachment is somehow easier for him than trying to live with the give and take of family ties. That is hard to accept. The most important things in my life are precisely those emotional ties to family and friends – those are the things that give my life meaning and happiness. I feel like he is rejecting the very things that will fill up that chasm he has been trying to fill his whole life. But at least right now he is unwilling to believe that.
Anyway, I went in yesterday and bagged up all the clothes that he’s grown out of and set aside the few things that he could still use to be sent to him. I put away in his keepsakes bin the few things he had hung on his wall (and found a few more things he had stolen and secreted away). The bed is pretty thrashed, so I think I’ll replace it with another one we can use for guests … But next up is repairing all the holes in the walls and repainting the room – and maybe think more seriously about replacing the carpeting in the house – his room is particularly terrible. Haley and I made a run to Goodwill so everything is already gone. It’s crazy how much better I feel now when I think about that room.