Sunday, October 13, 2013

Grin and Bear It

Thank you all for your kind words and support for my friend Brittney. Some of you have asked how you can help; if you are interested, a memorial fund has been set up for her: We have spent the last week trying to get back on track, keenly aware of just how fragile our little family really is.

On a lighter note, this week also marked our very first parent-teacher conferences. I will tell you that I was a smidge petrified. Prior to the conference, David and I were discussing our own experiences as children, recalling those fateful nights when our parents would walk in the front door, lips tightly pursed and brows furrowed. Those conferences never went well.

David is always quick to retell his own elementary school traumas as a young boy in Catholic school. One year, David's parents were called in after David was caught stealing Jolly Ranchers out of his teacher's desk at recess. For whatever reason, the school frowned upon students stealing from nuns. Go figure.

I, on the other hand, have been plagued with the same comments on my report card for my entire life. In fifth grade, Mrs. Brady wrote, "Amy needs to learn to sit quietly while those around her are finishing their work." Mrs, Brady, I am still working on it. Those same comments may or may not have appeared on my last performance review.

As we entered the conference, we hedged our bets.

Morgan's teacher was just delightful. She is working hard to instill a sense of responsibility in each child and is actively creating a positive learning environment. She showed us samples of Morgan's work, highlighting how well she is performing academically.

I was almost breathing a sigh of relief. Almost. Until she uttered these words, "Morgan does really well in class. That is, when she's focused. She just really is a little social butterfly." Dammit, dammit, dammit. I am not going to suggest I was even remotely surprised, but that didn't make the sting any more bearable. I endured so.many.years of having to will myself quiet when I was POSITIVE the rest of the world was dying to hear exactly what I was thinking. And I had passed my affliction on to my daughter. To add insult to injury, I had also just lost a bet to David. At least she's not stealing...yet.

As we parted ways, Morgan's teacher handed me Morgan's school photo. When I opened the envelope, I couldn't help but chuckle:

If that smile doesn't say "fake it 'till you make it" I don't know what does. I suppose I would be too if I had just found out I have to spend the next 12 years sitting quietly. I feel your pain, baby girl. I feel your pain.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Deepest Sorrow

I am not sure this story is appropriate for my blog. It's not funny, it's not joyous, and it has nothing to do with my daughter. But my heart is so heavy, almost suffocating, pulling me into a place of despair I do not know how to navigate. 

I told part of this story last summer when I wrote about a wedding that David had the unique opportunity to officiate. I wrote these words, "David spent the next 20 minutes performing the most beautiful ceremony, helping two wonderful people begin their lives together." As with so many couples, Alan and Brittney had a story. The path to finding each other had been a long and arduous journey, giving them each the unique insight to know just how precious their relationship was. And they let us share in that day.

We were especially endeared to Alan and Brittney, perhaps because they reminded us so much of ourselves. A love for each other, a passion for the outdoors, and a commitment to building a life that mattered. And they were so in love. 

On the day of their wedding, I took this picture of Alan. We were on a boat, headed to the secluded shore that would serve as the backdrop for their ceremony. His eyes scanned the shoreline, watching for any glimpse of his bride. As with many grooms, Alan was nervous, fidgety, restless. But he was also at peace, confident that he was about to begin his life's journey with the person who truly was his other half.  When their eyes finally met, I watched him. His shoulders relaxed, his smile broadened, he knew. This day was magic. And it was. 

In an instant, it was shattered, broken in a way I will never understand. Alan was killed in a car accident on Monday night while on his way home from work. He leaves behind his bride of just a year, and a precious newborn baby daughter. The night we found out, I laid in bed next to David, listening to the deep swells of his breathing. I sobbed, crushed under the weight of knowing Brittney slept alone that night.

I hadn't seen Brittney since their wedding. The last vision I had of her was so radiant, so full of life. As I entered the church, I saw her standing among dozens of friends and family, all gathered to show their love and support. She was gracious and kind, thanking everyone profusely for attending.

We hugged, and the tears immediately began to flow. As with everyone there, I just kept telling her how sorry I was, how brokenhearted I was, how incomprehensible this was. She leaned in and whispered, "Amy, our fairy tale wasn't supposed to end like this. It just wasn't supposed to end like this."

No, it wasn't. It wasn't supposed to be like this at all.