On January 21st I found out about a man who'd lost his wife, making his daughter the same age I was when my mom died. I wrote about it here.
Since then, I reached out to him and we have found in each other something I believe is more than worth the fear it's causing me to let down my guard and care about someone again.
I have seen him father his daughter with love and deep respect. I have seen him do everything in his power to make sure she feels loved and safe. I have seen her loving him. I'm not yet sure I have words to explain how this has made me feel. I'll have to work on that. To say that this alternate ending to my childhood has been healing is an understatement but it's all I can come up with right now.
I have been able to tell him everything about myself. The grieving, deeply wounded parts of me I've hidden from others. The weakest me, that I hide from myself. It's all been out there for him to see. Instead of running from that, he's come forward through it with me. It hasn't phased him.
I don't have a clue what the future will bring. I'm terrified to hope for great even when I have it right in my arms. But I'll tell you one thing I know for sure.
I asked for this. Down deep, in the part of me I keep hidden from almost everyone, I asked to meet these two people before I knew they existed. I know that sounds woo woo. It does even to me. But I did. I said a tiny, quiet plea that I almost couldn't admit I wished for. I wanted to find them and I did.
I didn't know what they'd look like or what their names would be. I didn't know where they'd live or how I'd ever find them. But I wanted to. And I did. I hope I enrich their lives as much as they do mine.
I realized today, when he asked me to come color eggs with the two of them, that each time I get to participate in some childhood ritual that I missed out on, I'm healing a loss I never really got to claim.
I don't usually tell people that there were no birthday parties, Easter celebrations, Christmas festivities or Halloween fun at my house growing up. And because I never had kids of my own, the rest of my adult life continued the same way. This is the first time I get to be an integral part of those things I missed out on.
It's terrifying to have hope. That's the funny thing. When it's abstract hope, like the vague notion that things won't always be as bad as they can get, it's helpful and comforting. But when it's hope that something you have suddenly in front of you won't go away, it's terrifying. Unless you've been through tragedy it's hard to understand how terrifying joy can be. A fragile, mending heart doesn't feel capable of handling any more pain and when there's joy there's potential loss and pain.
Before I met these two people I had little left to lose and that was liberating. It was an absence of joy and it was a loneliness, but it was also the absence of the feeling that I had so much to lose. When I met them, I felt I had two choices, to continue to be lonely but free of potential pain, or to reach out and risk pain. There is within me, some source of utter fearlessness that can be easily drowned out by the fearful part of my brain trying to protect my heart. That crazy, fearless me knows that I have to push through the fear or forever live without closeness with others. That part of me hasn't allowed me to push this potential happiness away out of fear. However, I live each moment of this with the fear.
But it's possible to feel both fearful and brave. It's possible to be scared shitless and show up anyway. So that's my plan. Show up despite the fear. Live despite the knowledge of the pain that life can bring.
It makes my heart race and chest constrict just typing this, but at least I'm showing up.
And because I am, I get to color Easter eggs with them, a ritual so many might take for granted, but I never could.