The kids started back to school last week. We have an eighth, a seventh, and a fourth grader. That’s recent enough that I remember vivid details about each of those grades for myself. About ten years ago, someone told me that my fourth grade teacher died. I was so sad. I assume that she was older, but I have her frozen in my memory as a great, young teacher. But then, three days ago, I found out that wasn’t even true. She was fighting for her life. I don’t even know how to respond to this because I already mourned her loss- how do you grieve something that you’ve already grieved?
I heard someone say recently, “The years are short and the days are long.” Boy, is that the truth. The years of my kids being home are flying by. In theory, Addyson could leave home in less than five years, however, I’ve already concocted a plan for the kids to stay home awhile longer. Every passing year weighs on me. Did we take advantage of each moment? Did I make enough ballgames? Did I go to enough school things? Did I take advantage of every teaching moment? Should we have read more, applied ourselves more, vacationed more, laughed more, cried more? Did we eat together enough, play board games enough? Did we watch too much tv? Did I take too much time to myself?
For whatever reason, over the last several years, the end of the summer has marked a transition. It is where I reflect over the year, regret some things, celebrate some things, and evaluate Tiffanni’s progression. This year was especially transitionary. It was an amazing year of trips and conversations, sports and retreats, school moments and relationships. It was also the most difficult year of the disease. Tiffanni was her worst and the kids were more aware than ever. I suppose that only continues. I sat with both girls more than once and cried about what they were missing because of her absence. Grieving a loss is hard. Grieving everyday, constantly reminded, newly noticed losses is brutal. And this summer was no different.
Out of all of the things that we did this summer, the one that sits with me, the one that I want to remember forever, the one that I have to write so that it’s never lost is this:
Right after my sister had her baby, my parents were gone for a few weeks doing what good parents do. We were home feasting on what mom had pre-prepared in the refrigerator with some supplemental frozen gourmet. In a moment of creativity, I decided that I wanted the kids to each cook a meal. They could plan the whole thing and executive chef the evening. Appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Their siblings had to sous chef with no complaints or suggestions. Just cut the onion and be quiet.
Each of the kids was ecstatic. Cooking is in their blood. From my mom and grandparents, to Tiffanni and her mom, they get it honest. They went all out. Each trying to top the next, but not so much to outdo the other, just trying to be noticed. Food and meals are important here, so each wanted to offer their contribution to the value. We had so much fun in the kitchen, both creating the meal, which is easily as important as eating, and in celebrating it around the table.
I was so pleased with each of the evenings. Addyson and Brayden each cooked one of my mom’s recipes. Carsyn found an old church cookbook and looked up my favorite meal that Tiffanni regularly made- Chicken Enchilada Casserole. A submission by Glenda Ann Cox. We shopped, prepared, ate, laughed, cleaned, and celebrated life. All while the ever-shrinking summer swirled by.
Here’s to another over-too-quick summer. Another year of movement, growth, and progression- some good, some bad. Another year of laughter and crying, celebrating and grieving. Somehow grieving what we’ve already grieved. Another year of family. Another year of life. Another year of loss. Another year of love.
Last year, I wrote a song called Summer’s End and recorded it on my platinum selling album. It captures some of the thoughts that only music can. I hope that you enjoy it.