On this day, the day that is the 1 year anniversary of my dad's death I look back on my life in the past few years since both my dad and Thomas got sick. First it was Thomas with his very first psychotic break and accompanying that came a grief I thought I could never feel so deeply. Then my dad had his stroke and shortly thereafter Thomas was hospitalized and what ensued was now 3 years of heartbreak culminating on this day, February 28th, 2015. It is very easy to tap into the grief of both losing my son to schizophrenia and losing my dad to dementia and finally death but I look at my life now, a year after my dad's death and with Thomas now stable and I think to myself,
"What do I do now?"
This morning I am not crying about losing my dad and most certainly I don't feel grief about Thomas since he is doing so well, so it begs the question,
"When all of the tragedy has mellowed, when time has healed the wounds as much as is possible, when still a life stretches out before me yet to be lived, where do I go now? What should be the next step in my journey?"
The answer came to me pretty quickly and what I have to offer is this.
Go. Live your life. Make a difference. Make your dad proud as if he were still alive to see you accomplish things. Teach your son to be independent. Relish all of the light that surrounds your son now that his mind is clear and he's become someone you never thought he'd be 3 years ago.
I have begun teaching Thomas life skills like laundry and how to cook and as part of my new plan to "live my life" I am slated to go on a trip with my mom to Seattle next week for 4 days and after that in April the family will go on a weeklong vacation to the ocean and after that will be the all-important 3 day conference I told you about. In between all of that are things scheduled on the calendar to be done. Mostly they're doctor's appointments and hair coloring appointments and the like but the full calendar means that it's time to embrace the freedom from grief, longing, desperation, and the long days of hiding out from the world.
Last night Thomas and I had a very important talk about my upcoming trip to Seattle. For 3 days he will have to completely fend for himself for meals and for getting himself to work and he's going to have to do it with a bravery he is only just now starting to cultivate. I taught him how to make a hamburger in the microwave last night and how to clean up afterwards and also how to make the meal a complete and healthy one. I told him that I would be gone soon and that he was going to have to hang on to these skills in order to take care of himself while I am gone. He was excited. He was shaking but he was excited...or ready anyway.
My leaving for Seattle will be the first time I am away from him since I went to Vegas a year ago. Back then he spent most of his day terrified and lonely and my whole trip was overshadowed by worry about how he was doing. I got countless texts that broke my heart talking about being lonely and scared and that he wanted me home with him. He was struggling and I was too far away. This year, next week, I hope that the story will go differently.
He is okay now. He is talking to strangers in an animated way, he is expressing interest in others lives and carrying on question and answer sessions with them and he is now a huge part of the family. He is a changed young man and as such, it is time for me to live a life independent of him.
My dad is now gone. He is in a better place and in a way, the Thomas I knew for years is gone now too. There is no reason not to celebrate this and no better way to do that than to make plans for the future and begin to LIVE.
February 28th, 2015 is the anniversary of when I lost my dad and February 28th, 2015 is the day that I know with all of my heart Thomas will wake up clear-eyed and ready to face the day and today, February 28, 2015 is the day I choose to live again.
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