I am going over to mainland this week to visit with my kids. These visits are few and far between unfortunately due to finances and work schedules; thank goodness for technology. Skype, text, email and Facebook allow for communication at least, if not face to face contact.
These visits are a challenge though for me and they’re not getting easier. It’s been just over a year since I moved from the lower mainland to Victoria and while I did have a number of friends and family accuse me of moving in an effort to run away from memories and grief that was never my intention with the move. My move to Victoria had been something that I had been wanting to do for years; in fact it was something that was a discussion just prior to Willie becoming sick but was tabled until the boys were older.
Even though it wasn’t the reason why I moved, I do find that my trips back to the mainland are hard emotionally. We lived in Port Coquitlam for 12 years. The boys essentially grew up there. Our lives were lived in a small neighbourhood. I may have commuted a lot for work all over the lower mainland but our “family” was pretty centralized to a few square kilometres. When I visit, it is a constant reminder of loss everywhere I look. Every street and shop and place holds memories of the boys in various stages of our lives. Some much more painful than others. We moved 6 times in 10 years within a 2km radius so just driving around to get groceries or go to a park or even out for a walk takes me past numerous “homes”. My heart breaks when I go past the last house we all lived in together. I can’t help myself though. I seek some of these places out. I sit and remember and try to feel the “family” and recall the good times and the happier memories. More often than not though it’s the pain that comes. The loss, the separation from what was. The grief for what’s gone forever. My mind relives the last few months there. The fights and the yelling; the hurtful words said by Willie out of frustration and pain. Words he apologized for and wished he could take back in his final goodbye to me.
I drive past the house where I was living when Willie died. My eyes glance to the driveway I was standing in when the police officer spoke the words that made my world stop. I drive by with tears in my eyes, my hands shaking and knuckles turning white trying to hold the steering wheel. The image of that night and that moment in my mind as if it was happening right then. My body feeling exactly as it did then. My heart racing, my mind goes numb and I pull over as I realize that I can barely see and the ringing in my ears is over-whelming.
The memories flood me as I drive around doing mundane tasks or heading to the mall or the movies with the boys now when I visit. I try so hard to maintain a “normalcy” to myself as my inner struggle with flashbacks and torment rages. The joy of seeing the boys tempering the hurt and giving me strength to not just stop and break down. The tears do come sometimes and the boys all understand and just let me be or try to comfort me.
I stay with my oldest boys when I come over. They live in the same suite that we lived in when they were first born and very young. The memories there are happy ones mainly. Images of them as babies and toddlers – a time when I was a mother to 3 young and incredibly busy boys. Times that I hold close to my heart. Connery now a part of new memories as I watch my 2 oldest, young men now and independent. Willie conspicuously not present physically but his presence everywhere I turn in this place. Seeing my 3 remaining sons and always feeling the empty place left by Willie’s death.
The visits always bittersweet as I try to balance being “here” for them but feeling lost in “then”. An edge of guilt that I should put behind me my grief so it doesn’t taint our short times together all the while knowing that I can’t. My hopes that they understand the comfort that I gain from being with them – even just sitting in the same room with them gives my spirit a softness and a sense of “rightness”. They are the reason I keep going right now.