Where we have been, for the last year, has been a place that is all too familiar for our family.
The grief of losing yet another beloved parent, or grandparent. The solemn procession through this first, most difficult year of life lived with a hole in it. A hole in the shape of my husband's mother, my daughter's grandmother, my other-mother, and friend.
Drawing on our previous experiences when my mom lost my dad - TW & I knew that his father needed to have a purpose every day. So, we have added him to our family table every night; promptly at 5:00 pm, he lets himself in, hangs up his jacket, washes his hands at the kitchen sink, and then helps set the table, or chop the salad, or makes the coffee.
As expected, it was a bit awkward at first, but as time passed, a rhythm developed, and now he is missed on those rare evenings when he dines with one of TW's other siblings.
DIL/Dad cried at Christmas. Only here, at our home; only in front of us did he bare his grief. TW & I had such mixed emotions; relieved that he trusted us enough to grieve so openly, but so very hurt that we had no way of absorbing his pain. And again, on her birthday. Valentine's Day was his first alone in 60 years. Mother's Day was especially difficult; he didn't know what to do with himself. Sensing this, TW invited him over to help prepare dinner for me. He arrived bearing a beautiful azalea bush, and we planted it in a shady corner of the front garden.
Now, we are almost at that terrible first anniversary. In short order, we will have Father's Day, then, two days later will be the anniversary of MIL's death, and DIL's birthday (the very next day).
However, instead of being sad, Dad has found - or should I say rediscovered - a purpose.
You see, I'm going back to work.
At my dream job.
Some of you may remember that I tried to work for a short time, in 2012. I had found my dream job - literally - and could not have been happier had I tried. The icing on the cake was that I was able to telecommute. I worked from home, in a lovely office with windows that faced a garden, and walls lined with books, and one cat sleeping on top of my laser printer, and other in the windowsill.
But it was hard on TW & Twinks; they found it jarring & unexpected. When MIL asked me to help, knowing that she had so little time left.. I quit the job, knowing that I could not bear to let down my Team at work - let alone my team at home. I knew I could not help her die, and not have it affect my work. And I knew it was going to affect our home. I had no choice.
I cried, every day for the next year. Literally.
I missed that job so much. It was the only job I have ever been hired for where I felt like I truly fit. It was like some HR fairy somewhere had tailor-made a job just for me.
A year ago, after we lost MIL, I started trying to get re-hired. I reached out to my contacts at the company, and everyone I spoke with was excited. Yes! Re-apply! Give us your resume'!
It took a year, but I finally got the call. I go back to work at the end of June.
<insert huge grin here> <also, maybe a HappyHappy Dance. Or two>
TW & Twinks - initially wary - have had time to get used to the idea. Seeing how happy I am, how excited I am to go back to work has helped them. I hope. Ironically enough, in the interim, Twinks (who moved back home to help out during her grandmothesr's final days) was hired by the same company to work at a local location - her job is different from mine; no telecommuting, she works directly with our customers. So ⅔ of our household will work for the same employer. I love the way my life works out sometimes.
When DIL found out that I was going back to work, he decided that he was going to build me desk.
Not just any desk, but one that was custom-made. He drew up plans, and has ordered in lumber, and soon I will have a Mission/Art Deco style desk, tailor made to my specifications.
For years, DIL has built furniture. Beautiful, sturdy, wood furniture, typically in the Mission style, but he also loves Shaker, Art Deco, and what he calls "Farmhouse". He is a true craftsman - no one enters our home without commenting on the furniture he has made. TW's siblings all have treasured pieces as well. Twinks, being the first grandchild, has the largest collection. A dresser he built for her while I still pregnant. A hope chest he made - began literally the day he first held her - with her name beautifully carved into the front. An end table to hold her beloved books. A doll cradle. And more.
During the last years of MIL's life, he had shoved his woodworking tools and supplies to one side of the garage. He had no interest in building things. His focus was on his beloved wife. His world shrank to fit neatly with hers - pills, and doctor visits, and the minutia of daily life with the elderly and infirm.
It wasn't until this past month, when we began to have hope that I would go back to work, that he started talking about how I needed a proper desk. At first, I was simply humoring him. Glad that he was taking an interest in it, I encouraged him, but did not expect him to do anything.
Bringing out his woodworking tools has somehow made him stronger. He is excited about something again - creating something new, that will last forever.
Maybe that is what is making him so happy. Knowing that this desk will go on beyond him, beyond me, hopefully beyond Twinks, to her children.
Knowing that he won't be forgotten.
Knowing that he has a place in the world where he is still valued, still needed.
So that is where we are now.
Building a desk.
Building (another) new future. Another new "Normal".
I'm still here.