I’m not always great with dates. I’ve mentioned before that anniversaries sometimes sneak up on me. I am convinced that this is not an actual decline in cognitive ability, but the fact that I am trying to remember roughly 1000 things at any given time. (Just nod and smile.)
So last night when I slid into bed, already far too late, and Paul sleepily asked me what was wrong I said, “I don’t know.” And I didn’t, but that didn’t stop me from lying awake under a cloud of nebulous anxiety.
This morning, Paul posted a link to this piece I wrote a few years ago, on the twentieth anniversary of my dad’s death, which means that today it’s twenty-three years.
This is the oddest thing to me, that I don’t see it coming but my body does. My conscious mind is busy getting the children to school and driving to work and making food Elias will refuse to eat, and my body is tensing against the approach of remembered grief.
This is in no way unique to me. I was talking with a group of other adoptive moms recently. Some of their children were adopted before they could possibly remember food scarcity, and yet they hide food in their rooms. They worry about whether they’ll have enough to eat, despite the fact they haven’t truly been hungry since they can remember. One boy struggles without visible external reason for a few weeks every year around the time when he was surrendered by his birthmother.
It is as if pain and fear and grief seep into our very cells and lie there dormant. Waiting.
I read somewhere that grief is the price we pay for love, and I believe it’s true. You love someone, you’re going to break your heart over them somehow, someday. But that isn’t the end of the story.
That boy I talked about? His story goes on with his mother knowing about his hard time coming and preparing and planning and lying on the bed with him when he cries and when he doesn’t, and loving him so hard and so there while he grieves for the mother he lost. Those kids who are worried they won’t have enough to eat even though they don’t know why? Their stories go on with their mamas, breaking their hearts that their babies ever suffered and breaking their brains to think up ways to help.
And even me. When I am busy not paying attention, I have someone who remembers for me, and people that tell me stories I never heard about my father. He woke up in a recovery room once, and the first thing he wanted to do was comfort a baby he heard crying. I didn’t know that story until today, and I’m a little richer for it now.
We all bear scars – if you don’t, maybe brace yourself – and it does no good to pretend that remembered pain doesn’t hurt. But I am convinced that it’s no match for present love.