Monday and Tuesday of this week were hard. After a long weekend at home in North Carolina full of shopping trips and visits to Santa and gift-wrapping and gift-unwrapping and picture-taking and eating and visiting, coming back to DC was rough. On the drive back, I inexplicably found myself mired in my memories of those days in the hospital, all the terrible images and sounds and grave pronouncements from the doctors and my helplessness and my hopelessness. I replayed the moments leading up to that trip to the ER again, wondering for the millionth time if there were something I could have done differently. I wanted so much just to be able to close my eyes to all of it, but it was impossible. I spent much of the drive home crying or fighting back tears.
Tuesday was much the same. Hard. Sad. Lonely. It wasn’t until Ed got home that night that I started to understand why I’d been having such a tough time, much more than usual. He mentioned that he’d been having trouble concentrating at work, and then commented that the “re-entry” after vacation is always difficult, trying to settle back into work mode. It struck me that that had been my problem, too. Even though the Christmas holiday came with its own sadness, it was so full of noise and distraction that I was able to avoid sinking into a darker place. But coming back home to a quiet house, back to my days alone with my sweet boy, back to my life with only one child where there should be two—it served as an incredibly powerful and sorrowful reminder, once again, that Hudson is gone and she is never coming back.
The worst part about this realization was a further realization, which is that this kind of “re-entry” occurs all the time, sometimes multiple times within the same day. It doesn’t require coming home from a busy vacation. One minute you are bopping down the stairs, humming a tune, talking in a sing-songy voice to your living child, feeling practically normal for crying out loud, and the next, you remember, all over again, that your child is dead, that you will never see her again or hear her say your name or sweep her hair out of her face or watch her sleeping or hold her hand to cross the street. I “re-enter” that reality over and over. All. The. Time. The vacations my mind takes can never hold enough distractions to stop it from happening again and again and again.
Today, I was on the way home from an errand with Jackson, listening to NPR, thinking about the fondue I’m going to make tomorrow night for New Year’s Eve. I’d parked in an unusual place, so I found myself cutting down a street I don’t usually take in order to get back on my normal route home. I came to an intersection and all of a sudden I realized exactly where I was.
It’s the restaurant where we took Hudson for dinner about eight hours before she first woke up with fever. It was our Mother’s Day dinner because we knew Sunday night was going to be difficult for some reason. It’s a brick-oven pizza place, and while the patio is closed up for the winter, on that Saturday night in May 2010, it was bustling with people and dogs. It is the last memory I have of her before she got sick and our lives changed forever.