This was written on Tuesday, 6 September 2016
I walked my eight year old daughter up the steps to her first day of school. I am ever so grateful for being able to keep her in the same school since her daddy passed away. Everything was so inconsistent, and scary the last year leading up to his death, and she still often grieves all of her losses prior to his passing and of course, continues to grieve the loss of her father. The school has been a huge support for her and myself, and our son. The day after he passed away, the counsellor came to our home to see her, and support me in the big decisions I had facing me. I am so so grateful for all of the people who have been there to lift her up when she feels like falling down.
Today was another day of firsts for us without him. There was father’s day, which fell less than a month after his death. Children at school made miniature home depot tool boxes and other handmade gifts for their dads. My heart broken daughter came home and plopped the half completed projects on the table ” here they are mom. It’s not a big deal. I’ll give them to grandpa and uncle” and went to watch TV. My heart fell heavy, but I encouraged her to finish the gifts together, and spend the day at my brother’s to celebrate. My eldest boy stayed home to work, and didn’t say much the whole day. He hasn’t said much since his dad fell ill.
Last year her first day of school was heart wrenching. My husband was in the midst of a manic episode. He was living in his truck, on the streets, wondering around for hours on end, not sleeping and had become inconsistent in calling or visiting the children. He called the day before and left a message saying he would meet us at the school…. that same night, at 1:30am he called requesting money to stay in a hotel room. I of course didn’t answer. I was sleeping.
The next morning she was bubbling with excitement. She wanted to see her friends, and even more so, her daddy. We got ready, she got dressed in her pre-picked outfit, asked that I pull her hair back and we scooted off to school. She stood anxiously in line looking for him, as did I. He’ll be here. He’ll be here, he said he’d be here and he always keeps his promises. The doors opened and we walked in to find which class was hers.
“Mom” she said sadly,” I do not think he’s coming”. I gave her a smile and assured her “I’m sure he’s just running late”. Together we took out her school supplies and organized her desk. I kept looking to the door and out the hall for him. He better be here. He better show. The teacher started speaking and I looked at my daughter, a sigh of disappointment escaped her lips, and then the tears started rolling down her cheeks. Her first day of school is supposed to be an exciting reunion of friendships, and new relationships, new classrooms and new teachers; not this.
“Just wait baby, I’ll go take another look outside”. He better fucking be there. I was stuck somewhere between wanting to cry myself and wanting to pound the shit out of something because the look of being let down on your child’s face is both heart wrenching and rage triggering at the same time. I took to the front door walking as fast as I could trying to keep up with my racing thoughts and conflicting emotions.
I remember the air was cool as I walked out the front door of the school. I remember begging with a higher power “plllleeaassseee let him be here”. I looked over the school yard, my heart now beating in my throat. I waited a few minutes. Watched as cars drove by, and parents left their children in the care of the teachers. Then, I felt my heart fall back into my stomach with a nauseating “thud”. He’s not coming.
I will never forget the look on her face when I told her he wasn’t there. The tears came up, fell down her cheeks, but she took a deep breath in and said “I’m ok mom”. She was seven. Seven years old and trying to be strong. That day marked a first of many days to come that she was going to have to be strong. No child that young should have to put on a brave face. No child that young should have to experience such a traumatic event as watching your parent become the victim of a debilitating disorder, lose their home, their pets, their safety. In the coming year we lost so much because of bi-polar disorder. The biggest loss was the loss of his life.
On this first day of school, she was her bubbly bright self. We pre-picked her school outfit and she wore it proudly eager to reunite with her friends, and school staff that showed her so much love the year before. Routine for children is so important. Community for children is too and this was her community. My heart fluttered for her seeing her smile and bright blue eye light up every time she seen a teacher. This first felt new and free. I don’t know if she thought of him. She never said anything but I’m sure she had a fleeting moment between the hello’s and hugs. I know I did.
On the way between her school and my work, I felt a deep ache. I realized her next first day of school would be a year away from now. Um… yeah…your thinking. But for me, next year when I drop her off for her first day of school, it will be the first time I drop her off , think back to the this year, and he won’t be a part of it; either good or bad. I feel like the moments he was alive, are slipping away from me. Today was the first time I made this realization.