I am not at my best right now. In fact, I think I may be slowly losing my mind. Or quickly. I can’t keep up to this schedule and all these responsibilities, it’s just too much. And the really sad part of feeling like this, of not overflowing with joy, is that last night we came home from Disneyland.
I was trying to book a trip before the accident, something memorable that we could do as a family. Myron thought Disneyland was the obvious choice. I was more interested in some place exotic. We never got much further than that. Bryn’s surgeon has been urging me to get her having fun before they work on her leg. Once they start, things will get difficult again. So I began the search for something affordable and landed a very inexpensive four day cruise and two and a half days at Disneyland. I have to admit, I was pretty proud of my deals. I think even Myron would have been impressed, especially when I found out I could use my bank points and air miles to cover a significant part of the cost. It gave the kids something to look forward to, something after Christmas, after December 28, that was happy. After all, Disneyland is the “happiest place on earth”, they say. I have to admit, there was a lot to enjoy.
The trip was good in many ways. We rented bikes on Catalina Island and toured the area (Karson ran into the back of a patio chair as we were attempting to find our way through a park that bordered a restaurant. The fact that there was a man in it, trying to eat his lunch made it quite comical…for us; him, probably not so much.) We walked on the beach, ate lots of food, tried to find some sun (I now know that it CAN be cool in Mexico), and watched the entertainment.
What I was not prepared for was how difficult it was to be there without Myron.
The first two days were emotional torture and I found myself thinking, Really? It still hurts this much? I can still be shaken to the core of my being, pulled under by sorrow as reality continues to remind me that he is truly gone? I realized how much the sight of what happened that day has affected me. Pictures float constantly through my mind of his lifeless body, of the children, and I feel so helpless because I don’t know how to stop them. The psychologist wanted me to picture something else when this happens, something to focus on like a mental walk through a park, or sitting in the sand at the beach. Because I love to ride, I chose grooming a horse. That horse has no hair left on it, I’ve mentally brushed it bald.
The second night I went up to the top deck where they had a track. I needed a walk. Every lap I got sadder and sadder until finally I was crying so I stopped and went to the rail. On that last lap, I was trying to picture heaven, trying to believe he was there, but I found myself terrified that maybe heaven wasn`t real. What if it wasn`t real? So I prayed for faith, prayed that God would fill me with the knowledge of what is true. As I rounded that last lap, tears running down my face, feeling like an idiot to be crying while everyone around me was living it up, I kept asking for more faith. Show me, Jesus. Show me something.
And I saw something. Out in the ocean, two spouts of water blew gently up into the sky. I was stunned and looked closer. They were far away, but definitely there were two whales, diving and surfacing in the opposite direction we were travelling.
My school yearbook, oh so many years ago, had us write down something we hoped to happen in life. I wrote that I wanted to see a whale in the ocean. And here were two. But so very far away.
I felt as though God was saying, I will give you the faith, but just a little at a time. I don`t understand this. Why not an abundance of faith? Why just a teaspoon at a time? Why not a breaching whale close up where I could see it, where everyone could see it? The only thing that comes to mind is that maybe God wants me to keep looking. Looking for Him, for where he is at work, for what he wants to show me. There is a journey to be fulfilled, I think, a journey that if handed to me somehow would not do what it is supposed to. Or, maybe, it was just two whales.
The same thing happened two days later. We had a day at sea and I was bound and determined to witness some sea life again. And this time I`d have my camera so I could zoom in on it to see it properly. For three hours I sat by the rail, reading a book, glancing up every few minutes to search the waters for some sign of activity. After several hours I saw a small splash and what I thought was something disappearing under the waves. I reached for my camera and found…nothing. I had left it in the cabin. So up I got, ran down the seven flights of stairs, across to the other end of the ship to where our room was, got my camera and headed back up to the deck. A woman was sitting in the chair next to mine and as I sat down I asked, "So, did you see anything interesting?"
"Weren't you just here?" she asked. "Didn't you see them?" As soon as I had left a large pod of dolphins popped up in the wake of the boat, jumping and playing, circling for fish, babies and all. If there was ever a time I felt like throwing my head back and yelling, ``NOOOOOOO!``, it was right then. In fact, I think I may have done exactly that. Then I shot up to the rail to scan the waters. There, just below, I saw two dolphins in the wake. Snatching up my camera I snapped a shot not realizing it was set on video. The dolphins disappeared and even though I searched for at least another three hours, they were all I saw. I now have a second and a half video of one little dolphin to show for all my time.
It felt similar to the whales. Why not the big picture, Lord? Why not the full view of twenty to thirty dolphins frolicking in the waves? I just got the snippet. Just like the whales, I received enough to know they were there, but not enough to stop wanting more. Not enough to stop looking.
Recently a good friend told how he had learned riding on his motorcycle as a teenager that the reality was he would steer the bike to where he looking. If he looked at the big tree, the bike went into the tree. If he looked where he was supposed to, the bike went there. In life, we move towards where we are looking. So maybe, I need to accept that the very act of searching, of asking, of looking, is part of the plan. Or again, maybe it was just a dolphin.
I know that I cannot see the big picture of life, the view of beginning to end, of how it all works together for the good of those He loves. I can only see snippets, a glance here and there that He is working, that He is real. That He has not left us. I am trying to be grateful for even that, to look in that direction. There are moments when I wish I could just walk away from God, pretend that He didn't exist, that He wasn't real. But I can't. Because he keeps touching me. Nudging me. Making himself seen. To walk away would be futile. He would just walk with me. Loving me anyways.
Disneyland was great, except that Bryn was in some serious pain with her leg. She just couldn`t tolerate the walking. I had to rent her an electric scooter the next day and on the third day we rented a wheelchair which we returned after an hour and a half when the flu bug she, Karson and Taeryn all picked up hit her like a ton of bricks. She spent the final day of Disneyland in bed at the hotel.
Taeryn turned 9, the day we arrived at the magical kingdom. A pretty good thing to happen on a birthday I would think. I let her pick out her presents. She got three princess pins and a water-colour caricature of herself painted by a Disney artist. They gave her a birthday button and Pluto danced a birthday dance. I think. He didn't talk so it was up for interpretation. Our waiter on the ship, a very tall man from Jamaica, had some staff sing to her a couple of days early. Karson asked they could sing at his birthday. "When is your birthday?" the waiter asked in his thick Jamaican accent. March 26, Karson answered. "You come back on March 26 and I`ll sing you happy birthday", the man said. "And you can get me a pony", Karson quipped back. The waiter thought this was hilarious which started a running joke between the two of them. You come back, March 26, the waiter would say every time he saw us. Get me that pony, Karson would happily shoot back. "I hope you`re planning on riding that pony home", I told Karson, "I'm not paying to fly it to Canada." The next night at supper, Karson asked me to butter his bun for him. "Why can`t you do it?" I said. "Its too hard, mom, you do it for me," was his answer. "If you can`t even butter your own bun how are you going to take care of a pony," I remarked as I did the buttering. Smooth as silk, Karson looked at me and said, "l have to butter a pony?"
It was hard, being both parents. When we used to go on trips, Myron was the fun guy, and I was the safety net. He`d let them explore and I would yell after them to not climb so high. He thought marshmallows were fine for breakfast, after all, we were on vacation, while I insisted they eat something healthy every once in a while. This time, I had to play both sides. Encourage their fun, reign them in. Get them to risk, put up the boundaries. It was difficult. I missed him in a whole new way.
Especially the night I took them into Encinada. It was dark but the touristy street was open. We had a few hours before the ship set sail so we walked five blocks to the shops. After a while we decided to head back and I came up with the brilliant plan to walk around a different way, instead of merely retracing our steps. After several blocks and Bryn`s insistence that we were going the wrong way, I realized that I had just led my children into the back streets of a Mexican city. There were men sitting in the shadows, dark rooms opening into the alley filled with people drinking, and very little lighting. I stopped us at a corner and looked around desperately in the dark for something familiar. I was so mad at myself. I know my sense of direction is bad, actually really pretty bad, but now I was standing by myself on the corner of a backstreet alley in a foreign country, a directionally-challenged mom and her four children. This was not a good moment. Of course, Bryn turned out to be right, darn it, and the boat was in the direction she had first pointed out. I was leading them the exact opposite direction. This never would have happened if Myron was here, I thought. He would have known which direction to go. I finally asked a man to point the way, praying fervently he wasn`t going to be the type to shove us all in the trunk of his car. He wasn`t. He did treat me like I was kind of slow, which maybe was quite perceptive of him, but in the end we got back to the ship in one piece.
I hate trying to do this on my own.
We landed in Seattle late Monday and I drove home to Canada. I missed our exit adding an extra half hour on to the ride, dropped the kids off at the house and headed to Safeway to get some groceries. I got home close to midnight, stepped over the suitcases the kids had dragged into the house, put the groceries away, tried to figure out why the furnace wasn`t working properly, went up to my room and burst into tears. Sitting on my nightstand was my "to-do" list and my date book with all our appointments listed. Emails from our school pointed out that the kids were behind in their schoolwork. I cried myself to sleep. How long can I keep going like this? Suddenly I felt like I did in that alley, confused, bewildered, and like I was leading them all in the wrong direction. How can someone just getting home from Disneyland feel like that?
Today I woke up and began all over again. I opened the mail. A lovely letter and a gift card to Dairy Queen from a family who are praying for us. A tag on the end of a business email saying he was still praying. A gift card to a grocery store from friends who used to work with Myron. Dolphins and whales. Just enough to make me keep looking, to lift my faith. You have no idea how much it meant.
I think I may cry myself to sleep again tonight. But I know there is more to look for. Maybe someday the whales will be closer. Maybe they won't. But they're there. I know. I've seen them.
(I made myself write this out tonight, needed to, actually, and it helps. Knowing someone is reading helps. Thank you for reading.)