By January, Rosalie’s mom’s ALS had progressed to the point where it became clear Rosalie should just move out to Illinois to be with her. She came back occasionally for visits but basically I was single-parenting from January to April. I tried not to let my stress levels affect my parenting and for the most part the boys and I were a team, but there always so much to do and there were times I was yelling when I didn’t really need to be yelling. Mostly I remember making piña coladas with an immersion blender and then folding laundry while I watched Netflix.
I was all alone the week of the marathon bombing. Everyone I knew was safe but there were some very close calls. I had a mild freak-out but so did everyone. The day we were all trapped in our apartments watching them chase Dzhokhar Tsarnaev through Cambridge and Watertown I got the news that my mother-in-law had died. Rosalie and her sister had been laying in bed with her at the end. While the police were closing in on the boat where Dzhokhar was hiding I was speeding down the pike, the only car on the road, trying to get to Connecticut to get my kids, to find a way to get to Illinois. That was the last thing that happened in 2013.
It was only April—most of the year was still left—but I was kind of done. It wasn’t until later that I realized how emotionally checked out I was for the rest of the year. Other things happened! The memorial service, and afterwards. We made a big decision about our kids’ education and moved them to a different school. We spent a weekend in Portland, Maine. My brother got married. I had some realizations about my relationship with my father and came to a better place than I’d been for 15+ years. We moved out of the apartment where we’d been living for 4 years, into a new place that was just ours. We grieved, and appreciated everything Rosalie’s mom had ever done for us, every day. Some days were great, some days never ended.
Every year I’m happy and relieved to turn the calendar over—a fresh start, better hopes—but this year I’m especially thankful for the passage of time. Part of me has been standing here, waiting for the rest of me to arrive, since April. Hi. I’m here.
Here, she said, Read this.
We were sitting on the thrifted couch in her apartment off campus. It was the end of the semester and the windows were wide open but useless against the Virginia summer night.
I looked at the 4 or 5 stanzas. It was free verse. Something about nature and darkness. Something about loneliness and longing. I handed it back to her.
Cool, I said. That’s awesome.
Heather looked at me. No, she said, handing the poem back to me. Read this.
She was a year ahead of me. We’d been sitting next to each other on the first day of what turned out to be the world’s most difficult 200-level British Literature class, and quickly became each other’s life raft. We were supposed to be studying for the final but had somehow ended up drinking instead.
I looked at the poem again. Something about cicadas. Something about the full moon. Something about sex and the long summer night.
Heather had a roommate who was majoring in modern dance. The last time I’d come over we’d bonded over her My So Called Life poster, but tonight she was out with her boyfriend, a white guy with dreads and a dog named Kenya or Nairobi or something. It was getting late and it was going to be a long walk back to campus.
I handed the poem back to Heather. It’s really cool, I said. Poetry’s not my thing and I don’t know if I understand it, but I like it. It’s great.
Heather stared at me again, longer this time. No, she said, handing the poem back to me. Read this.