2020 is a difficult year to look back on and relate to you all what it was like for us. It’s not because all of 2020 was bad but because I have a very real fear that if I think too hard on the year I will somehow get sucked into a time warp and have to relive it all again.
I’d rather not do that if it’s all the same to you.
Obviously, life for the boys and I (as well as many others) hasn’t been the same since Teresa passed away but in a way it helped prepare us for what was to come in 2020. As 2020 dawned the shock of having just celebrated the holidays without Teresa (though thankfully with my friends and sister, all of whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude for their support and company) gave way to a real fear and panic of having to learn to function during the normal day-to-day life that we were now expected to do. I don’t know if I can say I did it with grace but the boys certainly did and that was enough to motivate me to at least try. I tried to keep things normal and keep routines the same while trying to do fun things like going bowling or going to an arcade to break things up a bit. We made plans to visit family in Hawaii, Phoenix and Oklahoma that spring and summer, trips I was looking forward to but also terrified of as it would be the first time travelling with the kids alone and learning to accept the happy times the three of us had together without feeling guilty. I don’t know what those trips would have been like as they were all canceled and, instead of having plans we, like most everyone in the world, were reduced to gathering leaves in the forest when toilet paper became a rare commode commodity.
At first the leave gathering was fun and it was exciting to all be home together for the couple of weeks that schools would be closed. Then it wasn’t just a couple of weeks, it was a couple of months. And then the rest of the year. It took time to adjust to us all being at home all the time. We had moments when we were not at our best and purposely switched out poison ivy leaves for the regular leaves just to spite the person who ate the last chocolate chip cookie that a neighbor had brought over, but, in general, we got along. So as the boys finished their 3rd and 6th year in school at home we looked forward to the summer when we could at least be outside more often.
We took a short trip to Newport in July where we spent a few days hanging out at the beach and looking at antique shops. In August, Teresa’s parents came out for a visit and took Burke on a week-long trip to Yellowstone. Burke had a great time on the trip and Fritz enjoyed being able to make all the choices of what to do at home while Burke was away. I was also able to take a couple of days to myself while Teresa’s parents were in town and spent it at a cabin on the Washougal river. In November, Teresa’s parents came for a second visit to celebrate Burke’s 13th birthday. We appreciated having someone else in the house to talk to and made sure that they had only the best leaves in their bathroom to use.
Burke and Fritz have both been doing school online this fall and winter as they began their 7th and 4th grade year of school, respectively. They are amazing boys and have continued to do well in school. I enjoy seeing how many ways they both remind of Teresa, whether it’s Burke’s newfound passion for plants (he is currently growing two avocado trees, a few apple trees and an orange tree – all grown from seeds of food we had purchased) or Fritz’s laugh and general silliness it helps to see how she is still here with us, just in a different way.
As I mentioned before, Burke turned 13 in November which means that I have to admit to being a parent of a teenager. Additionally, Fritz turned nine in May which means that he is a year older than he was last year. Unfortunately, neither were able to have their traditional birthday parties but we were fortunate to have family friends over to celebrate with us for Fritz’s birthday.
While we didn’t have guests for the holidays this year the boys and I learned that we could do all the things we have always done and, while we miss Teresa even more acutely during these times, we found that we could still find ways to have fun and enjoy each other’s company that didn’t involve poison ivy leaves.
I cannot in any way say the past year or so has been easy and I can’t say that I would ever want to go through times like this again, but I can say that I have learned a lot about myself and a lot about life. My appreciation for the boys was never lacking but my appreciation for the time we have had together has certainly grown and, at times, I’m not certain I will be ready for them to go back to school. My appreciation for all who have shown myself and the boys so much support is immense, and I know that the journey we have been on would have been much harder without them all.
My appreciation for Teresa has only continued to grow over this time as well. I appreciate so much that she was willing to be in my life for the rest of hers. I appreciate that she was willing to create two amazing boys with me. I appreciate all of the love she showed myself, the boys and countless others. I appreciate that she taught me so much about life, whether she knew she was doing so or not. I appreciate that Teresa continues to be a guide for me and, while she was with us, set a standard of how to treat people kindly, show people love and appreciation and to put in the hard work necessary to do things that are not only hard but to do them well; a standard that I strive to attain to.
When I look back at 2020 then I can see a lot of suffering, confusion and sadness, not just within my life but in so many throughout the world. I don’t know what 2021 will bring me or anyone else but my desire is to continue to learn to navigate life with more grace and appreciation and less fear and guilt. As a people I hope that we can learn to live a more peaceful and gentle life and learn to set aside the varied perceived differences between one another. Life, I don’t think, is meant to be perfect but instead it is meant to teach us through the imperfections. It’s these lessons that we can use to have conversations with, instead of making accusations against, one another. These lessons can help us see past the prejudices that we have and assumptions we make about one another based on how they look, where they are from or the choices they have made. It’s these lessons that I hope to continue to learn from and live a life that makes the boys proud and does honor to Teresa’s memory.
From the boys and I we hope you all had a happy holiday season and hope that you all find peace, happiness and a more-often-than-not well-stocked toilet paper aisle.