I had a lot of time to ponder life from the back seat of my parents' car. We had about 24 hours of travel time total, and when you're no longer on the hook for directions, keeping someone awake, or attending to the needs of everyone else in the car, it's definitely an odd experience. In some ways it's a little strange to be a full-blown adult and yet still be the "kid" in the group. At least when my kids are around I have some level of authority and credibility, but all bets are off when you're alone and revert back in the kid role! But it was fine...better, in fact, since I had full ability to pack and eat my own snacks and relish the fact that I didn't have to do any of those things above. I certainly have more appreciation for watching the world go by than I used to!
One of the good things I learned from this trip was that if I take Dramamine, which I have never taken before, I can actually read in the car. I don't have any trouble with carsickness in general, and obviously I'm fine with amusement park rides and the like, but for some reason, looking at a book or even a phone in the car makes me foggy headed and slightly nauseous. It's always been that way. Thankfully, I've always been able to read on planes, so I don't know what makes cars different. But for this trip, since I had a book to read, I bought a low-drowsiness version of Dramamine and figured it would be a good test. I ended up not using it on the way out since we had plenty to talk about in the car and I didn't need another diversion. But it worked like a charm on the way back, as I guess we were all talked out! I did short bits of reading--a chapter or two--and felt fine. In comparison, without the Dramamine, I got icky just looking at the Jelly Belly flavor menu in the car for a few minutes after our stop there! Good to know for the future!
As I said, on the drive out I was plenty occupied by conversations with my parents. The family time from this trip--both immediate and extended--was really important to me. Obviously I felt it was necessary to be there as a support system for my aunt and uncle and other extended family, but I also savored the opportunity to hang out with my parents without the constant interruption I'm used to with my kids around. And once my brother arrived on Saturday, the throwback feel was upped a notch since it was just the four of us--no spouses, no kids--and that is rare, indeed. I also spent time with extended family I rarely see, as well as my uncle's family who I haven't seen since I was very little! But it was nice to get that bonding time, and I appreciated the opportunity despite the reason for it.
On Sunday night before we headed back to the hotel, we looked through my aunt and uncle's photo albums. I've seen many of the events in their albums from my parents' photographic perspective, but it was interesting to see their photos. Many were from their early marriage, when my aunt was super young, and lots of pictures from when my cousin Keith was a baby and they still lived around the corner from us. Seeing my aunt as a young mom--far younger than I am now--and seeing the evolution, particularly with this most recent, horrible parental chapter, was very poignant to me, for some reason. As much as we parents worry about our kids and often think the worst, realistically we never truly expect to lose our kids. The woman in those pictures could never imagine the future that awaited her, and thank God for that. I think of that often--that as much as we worry, it's better that we don't know our future because we'd sit around worrying about it arriving instead of enjoying the time we have. Perhaps we don't always enjoy it to the fullest because of the worries we do have even without that knowledge, and we'd probably savor it more if we knew that joy was limited, but whenever I look at a happy picture before a specific sad event, I wonder how the joy of that event would have been changed by that future knowledge. Deep, I know. Anyway, there was such a contrast between the new mom in the pictures and seasoned, heartbroken mom that I spent the weekend watching, and it makes you more aware of your role as a mom. It definitely makes you want to savor the good times and not hate the bad times so much.
My uncle's eulogy was moving, and it definitely hit home. He spoke of nights when my cousin would call out and need reassurance after a bad dream, and he would assure her that everything would be okay. It obviously made me think about my many nights--particularly recently--where I have been woken up by my kids and I groan as I get out of bed to attend to them. We've had many nights like that with Jacob, as he was a horrible sleeper during teething and even now has gone through phases of bad dreams. Lately Carter has been the major culprit as a result of potty training. Since he's still in a crib (yes, the bedroom furniture situation is still a mess, and I haven't figured out how to get a reasonably priced mattress to my house), he can't get up to pee on his own. And even if he could, usually he still needs a little help in the bathroom. So, for now, until his bladder expands to hold on all night, I will be a bit short on sleep again. And of course the speech was a good reminder to savor those moments, no matter how challenging, because this is all so fleeting. I can't say that it's easy to do in the middle of them--trust me, I've still done my fair share of yelling and ranting this week--but I try.
One of the things that has stood out to me since her death is how normal life seems almost decadent. It feels like we're so fortunate to be able to do mundane, everyday stuff. We're here, we're alive, and we're not having a constant wave of grief hitting us. The same can't be said for members of my family, and my heart breaks for them. We're here, a 10+ hour drive away, and can still mostly go through our normal lives. With a little more sadness, yes, but it doesn't constantly envelop us like it did last weekend.
The other night my cousin Keith posted on YouTube the photo montage he made that played on repeat at the funeral home. It's 24 minutes of pictures of Kristi, mostly from the digital camera/social media era. The younger ages were pretty well covered by photo collages on easels. But those digital pictures gave such a vivid picture of the beautiful, loved young woman that Kristi was. It showed picture after picture of her gorgeous, vibrant smile, surrounded by friends and family, and living her short life to the fullest. I had seen those pictures many times over at the funeral home, but when he posted it, I watched the first few minutes again. I even got Jacob to admit she was pretty (hehe), and I tried to get him to understand why I want him to have a better relationship with Carter, courtesy of the many sibling pictures. But I still found myself in this horrible state of disbelief that she's really gone. You can't look at her without everything screaming "ALIVE!" See for yourself...
Doesn't seem possible, does it? We're just not used to young people having their lives cut short, so the juxtaposition of these pictures with death seems so wrong. Of course, then Prince died this week and that whole "too young, so much potential" theme cropped up again. Certainly it's on a different plane than what we went through, but the theme felt all too familiar. I still feel like I'm going through life in a bit of a fog. Not quite the thick fog I had going on the week after she passed, but there is this constant underlying sadness where my thoughts always drift back to my family and what they're probably going through at that very moment.
I know I had many more thoughts while sitting in that back seat, and since, but I can't think of them right now. I'm up way past my bedtime after another Knighthawks game (one of our few this season). It looks like it'll be a short spring for them. Always sad to not win in the playoffs, but if it means we get Craig back sooner, that's not a bad option, either. One more week, and then we'll see. I had a busy day of trying to check long-overdue stuff around the house (that I've been neglecting for two weeks in the fog), so hopefully we'll be back to some regularly scheduled programming here soon.