Goodness. Not a single post yet in February. Still no 8-month post for Jackson (even though he turns 9 months on Friday). I do have good excuses (reviewing 8 50+-page student papers in one week for my adjunct professor job at GW Law School, preparing for my first big trip alone with Jackson complete with a cross-country flight and packing for two different climates, and the 10-day, 5-flight, 2-city trip itself), but I still miss writing. I feel rusty. I need so much to flex these muscles more, to grasp for more understanding where I have so little, to give myself dedicated room and time to grieve, time that is just for Hudson. So many other things are competing for my time right now—triathlon training, preparing to put the house on the market, reviewing draft after draft of student work—lately, all I can do is just let the grief come when it will, in short bursts of hot tears in the parking garage at the grocery store or stopped at traffic light. I need more time that is just for Hudson. I can only imagine that as time goes on, as life goes on, it will be harder and harder to find. What I wouldn’t give to have this problem with a living daughter, to have to carve out special Mommy-Hudson time so that she wouldn’t feel too often overlooked next to her much less independent little brother. How often I have imagined what we would do on Mommy-Hudson day.
As you can imagine, my inability to find time to write bears no relationship whatsoever to the status of my grief, no relationship at all to the intensity of my continued longing for my daughter who is gone from me forever.
I have somewhat come to terms with all the “firsts” that still remain ahead of us for the rest of our lives, milestones that will always feel different than they should because she should be part of them. But this does not make them any easier when they come.
The trip I took with Jackson had two legs. First, he and I flew to Helena, Montana, for a 6-day visit with our dear Jess and her family. From there, we flew to San Diego to see our old friends from DC, Jake and Andrea, and their two kids. Ed spoke on a panel at an ABA conference there and then joined us for the weekend afterward.
While I certainly had my share of wistful moments during our visit with Jess (and regretted so deeply never having taken Hudson to Montana), it wasn’t until Ed joined us in San Diego that I really felt Hudson’s absence so keenly. I’ve written before that I don’t often imagine Hudson in the places where she should be anymore—while I never stop wishing for her to be in those places, my brain no longer sketches her into them like it used to. Is this some part of acceptance, some kind of “integration”? I don’t know, but in just the right circumstance, the brain rebels again, unable again to comprehend what it means for her to be gone forever.
On Saturday, Ed and I and Jake and Andrea and their two kids all went to Sea World in San Diego. Jake and Andrea had told us that Sea World had both sea turtles and penguins, so we were in. Although I didn’t end up being a giant fan of Sea World (I’m not sure what I expected, but seeing the sea turtles and penguins in that kind of captivity ultimately just made me sad), I couldn’t stop thinking the entire day about how much Hudson would have loved it. As we watched dolphins leaping and dancing in the water with colorful acrobats, my brain sketched her right in. I could just see her there, completely mesmerized by the motion, the colors, the spraying water, the high dives, the gorgeous dolphins. I could see her laughing gleefully when the dolphins soaked the first several rows of the audience with powerful slaps of their tails. I could see her leaving the stadium and pronouncing that she was going to work with dolphins when she grew up. I could see her there. I cried silently behind my sunglasses through half the show.
As the day wore on, it occurred to me that this was our first big family trip without her. Just when I think I have mapped the perimeter of the giant hole in our lives where she once lived, it changes on me. Just when I think I have plumbed its depths, another cavern opens up. Just when I think I have stopped imagining her where she should be, my brain sketches her right back in again, leaving me breathless to think of all the imagining that must remain ahead of me for the rest of our lives.
We returned home once again without her. Our family of four with only three.
Over and over. The hole ever wider and deeper. The longing made new and raw all over again.
I miss her. I miss her. I miss her.