Coincidences or signs?

It’s been a weird 12 hours.

First, there was the amazing sunset after the balloon launch at Ethan’s grief group. What I didn’t say in my post last night was that on my balloon’s message to my dad, I asked for a sign that I was doing things okay, and that we’d be all right. Enter the most magnificent sky ever. I’m taking that as a sign from my dad.

Then I realized that I “knew” the new guy in grief group. First, his son looked familiar, like I had seen him before. Then the daughter’s name tripped alarm bells (it is not a common name). And the timeline of his ex-wife’s life from cancer diagnosis to their divorce to her untimely death was strangely familiar. I checked an obit this morning, and sure enough, the kids’ names and his name match. He’s the ex-husband of a former co-worker who died earlier this year. (I wrote about her in a previous entry, but I made the post private because “people” were searching for terms associated with her and stumbling across my site.)

This would be odd enough, but in one of the last emails that Donna sent to me, just weeks before she died, she talked about her kids and my kids and wanting to get them all together for a play date. I guess now they’ll get to know each other, having the chance to hang out every two weeks at grief group…

Message received

grief group

Tonight at the grief group Ethan and I attend, we released balloons with messages to our deceased loved ones. Almost as soon as the balloons were released, the sky changed and the most amazing sunset appeared. I told E that it was a sign that Mike received his balloon message.

“Public intimacy”

I spend most Friday mornings at Starbucks or Panera. Drinking a latte (or a mocha, depends on the day). Eating a cinnamon bagel (or chocolate chip muffie, depends on my mood). Grading papers, or planning for next week’s classes, or catching up on emails and Facebook messages, or just procrastinating. It’s a lovely break from the everyday, and I enjoy having a few hours to myself.

Over the last few months, I’ve observed a lot. Groups of old ladies who meet to knit together (not so much talk, as just sit together and knit – really, this is a thing?). Pastors meeting members of their congregation to discuss various spiritual issues. Business people frantically working on PowerPoints or prepping for an important meeting. Friends meeting to celebrate a birthday or new baby or some other happy occasion. The single person reading a magazine or a book.

But there’s something that captures my attention every time. I’ll spend way too much time watching them, studying them, envying them.

It’s the older couple. Sitting across the table from one another. Reading the paper, sharing the sections. Drinking their coffees. Occasionally reaching across the table to hold hands for a fleeting moment. Sometimes reading excerpts from an article to one another. Talking about their day, their plans. Telling stories. Laughing. Maybe reaching across the table to brush fingertips – again, while looking into each other’s eyes.

I watch couples like this from afar, envious of this sort of “public intimacy.” It’s like the world – this coffee shop, all the customers, the noise – doesn’t exist. It’s just him and her. Enjoying each other. Together and separate, but very, very close. Physically, emotionally, mentally close.

I never had this. I want this.

Endings and Beginnings: An Update

Life has been extremely busy lately. Good busy, but busy nonetheless. So quick updates:

  • It’s the end of my semester, and I can’t believe how quickly time flew by. In the last week, I had a standing ovation from one class and incredible notes of thanks from several other students. This teaching thing, yeah I like it. Now the time-consuming part – I’ll be spending the next few weeks grading papers… (But I’m on the fall and spring schedules for next school year, which is awesome!)
  • B and I continue to talk daily. We closed the restaurant (again) on our last date, spending more than six hours talking and laughing and smiling without any concept of what time it was. (“Why does time seem to stop when I’m with you?” he asked when we realized it was 2 a.m. and the restaurant was closing.) At least one friend has asked if B and I have kissed. No, we haven’t. He continues to be a gentleman, walking me to my car, giving me a hug, kissing my cheek at the end of the evening (or early morning, in this case). I don’t know where this will lead, and while I look forward to finding out, I’m really realistic about it and taking things very slowly and cautiously.
  • Relatedly, a former coworker messaged me this week with a *demand* to get to know one of her friends who’s moving to town in a month or so. From her message: “I am going to introduce you to a friend of mine who is moving to (CITY). Not a “fix up” unless you just happen to hit it off that way but a great single dad who is extremely bright and funny and sarcastic and I think you would be friends. Oh, and just BTW, he’s exceedingly handsome and has an adorable young son. He’s an uber liberal feminist. I would consider running away with him if invited. Just a heads up. I am not giving either of you a choice in the matter.” I took a chance and messaged him yesterday. (Thank goodness I’ve had some recent practice being witty via emails…) Also, friend was right: he is ridiculously attractive.
  • The condo fell through. Someone offered full-price, all-cash, not-contingent-on-an-inspection offer, and the bank took it. It was a huge blow to my mom, and I think she’s reluctant to look anymore. I’ve shown her a few listings that are comparable, but she hasn’t taken any steps to move on anything. I think she’ll be around for a while.
  • Ethan had first communion last weekend. It’s a big deal for a second grade Catholic schoolboy. As Ethan was getting ready in my room on Saturday afternoon, I was struck with a feeling of sadness: Mike should have been there. Mike should have been helping him get ready, put on his first suit, tie his tie, comb his hair. Mike should have been sitting with E and I during mass. Mike should have seen his son reach across the aisle to hold the hand of one of his favorite (girl!) classmates during the “Our Father.” But he wasn’t there. Instead, I brought a photo of Mike to set on the empty chair, for Ethan to hold during the service. It made Ethan happy to have the image of his dad, but it was sad to watch as he held the photo close at key parts of mass. I was taken back at how empty and sad this otherwise happy occasion made me. I was glad when it was over and we could leave. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough – to get away from the happy families celebrating together: moms and dads and the first communicant and the extended families. (But it was super nice that E’s Big Brother came to mass.)

I’m looking forward to wrapping up this school year and then having the summer “free.” I’ve worked every summer and school break since I was 15 years old, so to have three months without obligations will be completely new to me. Also completely new to me: spending all day/night, every day/night with my kids – other than maternity leaves and occasional vacation days, I’ve worked since they were born. Actually, I worked through my maternity leaves and vacation days, so this will all be REALLY NEW to me.

Once I’ve submitted the final grades for the semester, I’ll be planning daily activities with the kids, a family road trip to the Gulf Coast, and visits with friends near and far. In my mind, I have lofty expectations for the summer – I hope reality lives up to it.