Another blank screen stares defiantly back at me, and my heart sinks at writing the words clambering to exit, as though maybe to keep them will somehow maintain some sense of order in our lives. To write them leaves me empty, reading them solidifies my doubts and fears.
In my angst I feel like I must do something, so I go rooting through neglected drawers, purging, throwing away what isn’t necessary, reorganizing. I recognize the times I am motivated to undertake these projects it is likely simply to regain some control over something when everything else seems to be spiraling.
In a drawer, I find a stack of pictures taken the final summer. It was after I had said I was leaving, delayed by marriage counseling he requested, that we visited my step son and his family at their cabin in North Carolina and my aunt and uncle in South Carolina. Among the pictures is one just of my children.
My first thought is this is before; when they were blissful and happy, unaware of the pending separation. Before their innocence was stolen, before their world completely imploded. Eight weeks before the shooting.
The human spirit manages to go on, adapting however it can, no matter how catastrophic or traumatic the event. But it is never the same; never as pure, never as free. My daughter surely has imprinted images and feelings surrounding that day, though it appears she has no access to it, no recollection of it, only pleasant memories of our life before. She still mourns her father, as though he simply passed away one day. The rest doesn’t exist for her.
It leeches out sideways, oozing into every aspect of our lives. These four plus years later I still fight tirelessly for her, but fear the battle lost as the adaptation that protected her and allowed her to go on seems to have taken over and I only see fleeting glimpses of the daughter I knew. Even her my son comments he doesn’t recognize her most of the time.
My son was catapulted from childhood into the lone man for a mother and sister at age nine. Flung into an assumed responsibility with no resources to pull from, no support to help him sort it out. He is depressed. He is angry.
I am angry. Furious. Raging. Abjectly sorrowful; unable to even conjure the words to describe the depth of this despair. I look at these two beautiful souls smiling in the picture, these two wholesome and perfect parts of God and I cannot fathom what kind of person could do what he did. Who could be so hateful, so intent to destroy me that they would destroy their own children in the process?
In the darkest hours I go in to each of them, wiping away my tears so as not to wake and startle. I touch them, smooth their hair, kiss their heads, pray, finally returning to my bed to wait out the night.
Sometimes, still, I carry the guilt for staying, for persisting in my fantasy of marriage and family, knowing it is entirely his for treating us the way he did. Yet it is the three of us who are left with, who live with the consequences and I long to make some sense of it, to have everything where it needs to be so we can move forward. If only it were as easy as uncluttering drawers and closets.