Some dates I could mark on my calendar: his birthday, the anniversary of his death, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the date he played his last hockey game… Other dates, however, just spring up and bite me.
Tonight is Graduation Night at Micah’s high school. No, Micah would not have been graduating tonight–he would have only been celebrating the end of his Junior year, but a number of his friends are graduating tonight. Many of his other friends are busy posting their relief of another school year gone by, their excitement of becoming Seniors, looking forward to their graduation in May, 2018. Micah was a part of the Class of 2018.
It has been 16 months since Micah died. At first, I did not spend a ton of time sobbing and crying and hysterical about losing my son. I rationalized. I internalized. I thought about how he “wouldn’t want me to break down like that.” I started blogging as my means of self-care and therapy. For a while, it worked…until it really didn’t any longer.
I took breather trips to Chicago to immerse myself in the Chicago Cubs World Series run. Just two-day getaways, mainly by myself, to sit and take in the atmosphere at Wrigley Field, to walk around the neighborhood and breathe in everything I thought was right with my hometown. Each trip found me reconnecting with old friends or spending quality time with my brother. Each trip had those moments of peace and contentment, but also moments of loneliness and realizations of my loss. Each trip had moments of guilt–I would not be taking these trips if Micah was still here, and so taking these trips was like accepting blood money for my son. Each trip ended, feeling like I was coming down hard from an ecstatic high.
I tried keeping my routine the same–still doing my bit for youth hockey, scorekeeping, public address announcing. I continued being a team manager. I continued helping the organization that Micah played five of his nine seasons with. I continued walking the tightrope pretending that everything was the same while trying not to look down to glimpse the painful reality all around. Every once in a while, I would look down and feel the pain of those jolts of reality. Until–eventually–the pain became too much, too frequent, and the tightrope seemed to have no safe platform in sight. In the end, I leapt off the tightrope and just hoped that the netting below would break my fall.
The more time flowed under the bridge, the harder reality became to ignore. As more memorials, mentions, memories were observed and commented, the harder it was to keep a calm outward appearance.
It’s silly, I know. There is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to have an emotional moment, or hour, or day, now, 16 months later. But every time I do, it still makes me feel–guilty. How can I have these reactions now, when I did not have them around the time I actually lost Micah? I fear that people around me will start to see these outbursts, meltdowns as somehow contrived. Yes, I know that how others react should not matter to me–they don’t know, can’t know, should never know what I’m going through. But still…
As I took a few free moments today to reach out for help in our moving process, I saw the social media posts of those friends of Micah, moving on with their lives (as they should), thinking about their upcoming high school graduations. I think about recent posts of Micah’s friends and teammates making college visits, attending combines and draft camps for hockey, planning for their futures. My mind drifts to Micah, and the plans we might have made, the things Micah might have done, the graduation that we would have celebrated next year…and the empty room our upcoming move will soon leave behind.
Even thinking about getting people to help us with our move next month sets my mind on its path of sorrow towards the heart. After Micah died, we needed to move. We needed to leave the memories of that fateful night behind, and not be constantly reminded of them every time we looked into his room. We tried to just get rid of the bunk bed. Not enough. We tried to put a futon in the room for guests to sleep on. What were we thinking? Who–that knew us, that knew Micah–would be comfortable sleeping in the room that was only made available by our loss? The only solution was to get out of that house, to start fresh.
Before three months had passed, we had found our new house and signed a contract. Little did we realize that we would linger in the old house for over 14 months before the new house would be finished. And even when it is finished, some five weeks from tomorrow, it will always be Micah’s house: 3706. The Fates decided that our new house needed to serve as a forever memorial to Micah, and blessed us with Lot 277 having an actual street address of 3706: “37” – the number Micah wore throughout his nine years of travel hockey; 06, the year he started playing.
Fourteen months later, his hockey bag still sits in his bedroom. His hockey sticks still sit in the back of the garage. I cannot throw them out. I cannot give them to someone else. I do not know where they will go in the new house, but I do know that they will travel with us. Micah’s trophies, medals and theatre and music memorabilia are still in his bedroom. I cannot dispose of them either. We will find a suitable trunk to place them in, and they too will join us to the new house. Micah’s jerseys still hang in the closet in his room. They will be packed up and brought to the new house. Perhaps we’ll shadow box a couple and put them on a wall. Maybe they will go in the trunk. Whether displayed or not, they will also accompany us on the move. I only wish the owner of all these things was moving with us too–not in spirit, not as memories, but in person, decorating his own room with his things…
How many speed bumps will I not see until I hit them? I guess I can plan on the graduation day speed bump next May, and drive carefully from there…