We walked slowly, strolling around the shopping center aimlessly, my husband and I. It was a Saturday evening and we had reservations at an upscale restaurant overlooking the water on the twenty-first floor of a building in downtown Bellevue, WA. We were dressed quite nicely, in my opinion, and as I walked, hand in hand with my lover, my friend, and my confidante of fourteen years I thought about what we looked like, and what we felt like.
It was Loren’s birthday and I was taking him to a premier local steakhouse for dinner. We were too early to arrive for our reservation so we chatted about nothing in particular as we strolled. Then we passed a little boy who ran out of a storefront across our path to his mother. He was young, maybe four years old. Nothing remarkable happened. And then Loren said “That little boy had Down Syndrome”. “He did?” I replied. I told Loren that I hadn’t noticed which was odd, because I usually find myself gazing intently at children who are different. He had noticed this about this little boy for the same reason I usually did. I feel so connected to them. I stare so lovingly and longingly whenever I see such a child. I told him how I sometimes worried that the parents would catch me staring and think- “That you’re staring for the wrong reasons”, he said as he finished my yet unspoken thought.
“Exactly. Look at us”, I said. “We look like two young affluent city-ites out on the town without a care or a clue. No one knows what we really are. No one can see it. They would never know that in many ways we’ve lived their life, or at least a completely different one than we appear to live now.”
It feels odd for me to be out without my children. I feel naked somehow. Not in a shameful sense, just too exposed and a little disconnected. It feels as though a part of me, a part of my identity even, is missing. Although Elliott is gone, she will always be with me but you can’t see her. And Skylar, who is here was away for the night. She’s growing up and living her own life. She had plans of her own that didn’t include us, which is good and constructive for her as a person, to be her own person and not just our child, but that’s a whole other lesson of it’s own in letting go as a mother. One I’m hoping to navigate in tiny instances such as these over a long, long period of time.
It’s a problem that often plagues me: the feeling of being an outsider in society. I further remarked to Loren that his turning thirty-two that evening, now made him twice the age I was when we met. “Thirty-two”, he repeated while pondering the meaning of the number. We regarded our lives together, and how we’re not as young as the teenagers we once were, but we’re not that old either. They didn’t card us at dinner for our glasses of wine. Either we don’t look young enough to be carded anymore, or they just don’t care as long as you can afford to purchase one of their sixty dollar steaks. We laughed together at the prospect of somehow feeling seventy-five and twenty all at once. So young, but so much life lived and so many lessons learned already.
After dinner, while walking back to our car we came upon the Disney Store. I stopped at first to go in, but soon realized our nearly ten year old daughter has mostly outgrown her interest in this store. I also had the overwhelming urge and want to be able to buy an Elsa dress for my five year old like everyone else in America is doing right now. I miss so many things about my daughter, and as time goes on, I miss seeing her grown up and have the experiences that I see children all around me experiencing. Of course I wish she had never died, but I also wish she never had Tay-Sachs to begin with.
Loren’s thirty-second birthday which is actually today, May fifth: Cinco de Mayo, marks the beginning of change in our lives. He accepted a new position at a new company in a new city, which he started today. This will entail the selling of our home and our moving to this city, which is several hours away. After waging a civil war, of sorts within our own lives over the last few years we see these events as our own personal victory and newfound sense of freedom. Cinco de Mayo, how apropos.
So much change always makes me emotional and nostalgic. I suppose it does for everyone. Change is difficult, even change for the better. So much of it so fast could potentially be unsettling for anyone. I began to cry at the thought of Loren leaving for his new position. I would miss him while he was away, and before we could come join him, but it was my feelings of missing Elliott that were heightened with all these changes swirling around us. It was another new chapter in our lives, that would only involve her as a memory. It would be the same for every new chapter from here on out. I told Loren that I still wish she could have been here and been with us as we move forward, doing all the things a five year old would do and being a living part of our lives.
He held me tightly and consoled me and also told me that he knew I did, but that it just never was to be.
And of course, he was right, but it still doesn’t make those feelings any easier. C’est la vie.