My daughter made a list the other day. A “Mama + Beary Playdate” list, written in her Daddy’s scrawl and taking up two pages from the notepad on my side of our homeschool desk. She stapled it together, added a sketch of the two of us, then brightly asked me, “Mama, do you want me to read you my list?”
She positively glowed as she ticked off all the fun stuff she had planned for us to play.
5. archery/nerf gun
She even included a list of snack ideas: garlic pretzels, tea, Triscuits, and pizza. “Because,” she reasoned, “we could order Domino’s and it could be delivered while we play.”
The sketch was of a blanket fort, with stick figures of her and me, a towel spread with our snacks in front of us, arrows pointing out “Mama” and “Me” – no Rafael, though. “He’s in the basement while we eat,” she informed me, “so he doesn’t try to sniff our food.” She included him in a second sketch, one where we’re all curled up together taking a nap – presumably after our full day of fun.
I smiled when she finished her presentation and I laughed and I hugged her to me. She grinned her Daddy’s grin and squeezed my neck back. “You’re the best Mama in the WHOLE world,” she declared, “and no, I don’t know all the other mamas, but I know you’re the best one for me!”
We’ve had a hard month, the two of us. Not hard between us, but hard because the permanency of Kevin’s death is settling in. He’s not coming back. And every day that goes by makes that fact a little more clear, despite the ridiculous notion in my head that he just stepped out for a minute and he’ll be right back. Even though it’s been a year, and he still hasn’t come right back. I’d read that the second year of grief can be harder on children, and I think it’s true. My beautiful little Bear has been more emotional lately, more anxious about us being separated. She’s become very protective of me, of my health, of me working too hard, doing too much. She’s trying to take on more tasks than her little eight-year-old self can possibly do. She guards our time, holds my hand, clings to me when I hug her good night.
I’ve been so careful to not juxtapose my grief with hers. She has a wonderfully unique brain, wired so differently from mine, and a distinctive way of processing the world. She experiences life so differently, and I can’t expect her grief to mirror mine.
But we’re struggling with the Kevin-sized abyss in our life.
We’re struggling with the motions of daily life, knowing Daddy is gone and with him, some of the goofy joy that the three of us created.
We’re struggling with being two, when we’re used to three.
We’re struggling with the crushing reality that every day for the rest of our lives we will wake up each morning and he will still be gone.
She sees the bruises of my brokenness. I hear the wistfulness in her words when she talks about her Daddy. We are surrounded by friends who help us at every turn, and we are held close in God’s hand as He comforts us. But still…we are just the two of us, holding closely to each other, trying to figure out this new life.
She plans a playdate. Just the two of us. And she cocoons us in a blanket fort, sheltering us from our grief, if only for a while. And in this world, on this day, everything runs according to her plan. A day when everything turns out okay in the end, because that’s how it works in the books she reads. It’s a day when we can laugh and play and eat our snacks and cuddle and read books. A day when daddies don’t die of cancer, and they never have to say good-bye to their little girls.
She’s planning this day for the end of May or early June.
I think it needs to be sooner.