Anxiety is not generally an issue for me. Every once in a while I can get nervous about things but it’s usually irrational and comes out of no where. I have only two great fears and that’s spiders and heights. If I were sitting here waiting to board a plane, I would be very nervous. If I were sitting in the shed in our backyard in the dark, I would also be scared. That’s about how I feel right now about returning to work tomorrow. I didn’t wake up very happy but I already set myself up for failure because I suspected I would start obsessing about work today. I knew for at least a week I would have to return on the 29th. When you know what’s coming and you want nothing to do with it, the day before is always the worst.
I have all these questions about what is going to happen. How will my “closest” co-workers react to my coming back? What will they say? Will the treat me like nothing happened, like it was just a long vacation? How am I going to feel? Will I be upset, scared or numb to their presence? I have no idea until 7:00 AM tomorrow morning comes, which is when I will have to get up to get ready for work. I only need to be there for a half day, but unfortunately because of how much time I wanted off I had to burn every bit of time off I had. Now I am stuck until the end of the year with no days off. I got three weeks, which to some people may seem like more than enough but for me I just can’t figure out if that’s enough time or not. I think I would probably dread the return to work no matter how much time elapsed. Heck, I can do that after a weekend.
Everything that I have done for three weeks straight has been about Ava. Everything has centered around her and for good reason. When I go back to work there is this thought in my mind that says things are going back to normal. Right now my definition of normal means that I start to return to my previous life which did not have Ava in it the way she is now. That frightens me. I don’t know if I will feel okay focusing on work when I want to think about her. I will also feel guilty if I think or do things that don’t necessarily relate to her. I honestly don’t even know how I will handle work. To me everything that I am returning to is my old life. I am reading a book my mom and dad gave to me called Grieving Dads. This is a good book. I don’t always agree with everything it has said so far, but there was a passage in it that said you can say goodbye to your old self. That person is gone after the loss of a child and that person will never return again. As time passes I coming to believe that more and more.
I used to care about a lot of things that just don’t matter to me as much anymore. Leah and I used to dream about owning a home and right when we moved in we had all these grand plans about what we were going to do with it. We painted when we moved in. A lot. We were so meticulous about every little thing. I obsessed about the yard. I wanted to have this plush, green yard. I wanted to have money in the bank. I wanted a new car. I wanted to do everything I could do have the things we wanted in life. No one ever could have told me in any convincing way how much these things have no great purpose in the grand scheme of things. Ava taught me so many things. I wished I could have learned them with her still here, but I know that there are three things that mean more to me than anything: being a dad, being a husband and having the amazing family that I do. That’s it. That’s all I need. Everything else is just a plus and is not necessary.
When I return to work, I will also be afraid for Leah. She and I need one another. There is only one other person that knows what I feel to the extent that I am feeling it and that’s her. I know that when I am having a crappy day or I am upset, she is not going to try to fix me. She’s going to ask me if she can do anything and then she will leave me alone or do what I need to get through it. She understands how my heart breaks at random times. I also know that she needs me. I know that I have been there for her to lean on countless times and I don’t want her to believe that by my returning to work that any of this means any less. It is just as important to me that I be there for her– that we be there for one another especially when the “normal” crap comes back into our lives.
I hope that tomorrow comes and does not end up turning into something I dread for the rest of my life. But while I am at work, I know that we have the support of a lot of people behind us and for that I am truly humbled. There was something that Leah’s doctor said to her in a follow-up appointment that I wanted to share for everyone who reads this that is close to us. Dr. A was very heartbroken when the circumstances unfolded that fateful day. Leah had to see Dr. A early in the morning the day of Ava’s burial. When we arrived at the doctor’s office, it was clear a few of the staff knew what had happened. You could see the look of sorrow on their faces. We were hurried into an exam room so we didn’t have to sit in the waiting area and one of the nurses gave Leah a hug. Dr. A came in and talked with Leah and I (but more Leah) and she said something that I really appreciated and applies to so many of you: “That little girl touched a lot of hearts.”
To my family, I will forever be in your debt. For the rest of my life. I say this because I know Ava touched a lot of hearts, including yours. I saw that on so many occasions. You hurt as we did many times. You stepped in when we couldn’t manage to keep up with everything. You were there when I was falling apart. When I was inconsolable. When Leah and I both were inconsolable. All of your lives stopped for us and that is what a family is. There is a lot more I want to say but I wanted to say that because what Dr. A said has remained with me and I know neither Leah or I would have made it this far without you. I love you. All of you. Always.